One Year “Lean on Me” Anniversary Sale!

Get a copy of "Permission to Speak Freely" for free!

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Can you believe it?

It’s been exactly a year since my last book Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Committed Community published! To celebrate, if you order a copy of LOM from my store and use coupon code FREEPTSF we will send you a copy of my second book Permission to Speak Freely for FREE!

Yup!

Thanks for all your prayers and support over the years!

We Cannot Remove God’s Love From Us

Today at (in)courage, I share a slice of Lean on Me.  Here’s a sample for you.

To read the full article, click here.

I’m so grateful these women were so generous to share a little bit of this book that was many years in the making.

And, oh yeah. I punched a wall in it.

****

Over a year had passed since my divorce, and God’s silence was still too much for me. I was out of town, and in my hotel room one evening. I wept. For hours. Why? Why? Why? Where are you? I don’t understand.

Still nothing. Still silence. The numbness morphed into anger. I drew myself up on to my knees and faced the headboard of the bed. I considered a drastic choice — a choice that would go against everything I learned a Christian should do.

Flashbacks of Sunday school and Bible verses and my life as a good preacher’s daughter — as a woman in ministry — went flying behind my eyes. In between the flares of my anger and hurt were memories of holy moments. I reflected on the night of my ordination when I was twenty-nine, the elders of my church leaning over me and putting their hands on my head, my shoulders, kneeling beside me as they commissioned me. I thought of my grandfather on his deathbed, telling me to never give up on the church. The moments of grace given to me by friends and the times my heart grew supple and receptive. How many times did I kneel at the altar? “Anne, the body of Christ broken for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.” I ate the bread. I drank the wine. My tears were in the crevices of the wooden floor in front of the place I would kneel Sunday after Sunday.

But somehow, this reel of sacred and lovely memories wasn’t enough.

So much. So much. So much fury and grief and silence and loudness, and it was all in a vacuum that finally opened, a breaking point that was broken, and everything went soaring from the secret places where they hid into a very material atmosphere.

In that moment, I didn’t care. I didn’t quietly renounce Him. I yelled. I put my fist to the wall in the hotel room. Not only did I swear God off, I swore at God, dropping four-letter words that were difficult for me to hear as they slipped out of my mouth. I threw the pillows as hard as I could across the room screaming at Him to leave me alone.

I am through. With. You.

I stared at the pillows on the floor and felt my right hand throb from its violent contact with the wall. With a red, swollen face, my eyes eventually closed and I fell asleep.

I woke the next morning covered in anxiety. I turned on my computer and did a search for “Catholic churches.” I needed to confess. I needed some form of penitence. An atonement. I called the church and a sweet older woman’s voice greeted me on the other line. I set up confession with a Catholic priest in a town where nobody knew me and begged him to give me some way to earn back grace. I am not even Catholic.

He was the priest and he was from Tanzania and in seminary. Because I wasn’t Catholic, he couldn’t offer me confession. But he offered me a seat in his office and wise, wise words.

My battle with God the night before was not a way for God to opt out but a way for me to allow Him in even further. I was not the prodigal son. I was the older brother. Like the father in that parable in Luke, God came outside His celebration to see why I wasn’t joining in. I pushed my list of demands on Him. I didn’t want Him. I wanted relief. The prodigal son was covered in an obvious filth when his father met him: the slop of pigs and sweat and dirt from his humiliating journey home. I was covered in my own loam, though not so material: my fear, my control, my entitlement, my cursing, my rejection of Him.

I could not earn his love and I could not remove it from me. We cannot remove God’s love from us. It is like, as Rilke says, one of those “things that will not ever leave.”

Read the rest…click here.

Managing Anxiety and Making Friends

The fine folks at Christianity Today had me write a little bit about the challenges of community when you’re struggling with mental illness (or when you love someone who has a mental illness). Enjoy!

With mental illness, community becomes more challenging… and more essential.

I was a high school freshman when I had my first panic attack. Heart palpitating and lightheaded from heavy breathing, I laid down and tried to take deep breaths, but my lungs didn’t want to cooperate.

What was happening? Was I having a heart attack? My heart kept pounding and my head kept spinning, and I wondered what they’d say the next day at school if I died. I could see the memorial page in the yearbook. Why couldn’t I take a decent school picture? I’d forever be remembered as the girl with a spiral perm and uncooperative ‘90s bangs. This fact only worsened my condition.

My dad comforted me by telling me my “irrational fear” would go away, and it did—for a little while. But then it came back and stayed, 20 years of constant panic.

Some days here and there, I’ll find mild relief, but I’m almost certain it’s here to stay. Most of the time, I’m functional and happy, and my anxiety lays dormant in the chemicals and synapses in my mind, hushed by medication that knows when it starts getting too loud.

Even on the quiet days, my anxiety can put a wall up around me, whispering (or shouting) how it’s not safe to go outside, how I’m better off alone. But I know God desires more for me. He wants me to have community, real friends. People I can lean on and people who can lean on me.

No matter who you are, cultivating friendships is a difficult process. As our developed societies have become more independent, we’ve felt the effects of disconnectedness on such a deep level, we’re afraid to admit it at times. Even though we have screens and pixels to connect us to anyone, anywhere, any time, we’ve never felt more lonely or unhappy in any decade in modern history. We’re surrounded by people everywhere we go—both physically and virtually—yet the need to feel that we belong somewhere is undeniably palpable.

As if the symptoms of an anxiety disorder aren’t damaging enough, coping with any mental illness (to name just a handful: depression, bipolar, ADD, and obsessive-compulsive disorders) can add to the challenge of finding community.Real community. Friends you can be vulnerable with. People you let into those places in your life that seem unbearable…

[[Read the rest of the article here.]]

Enjoy A Free Chapter of “Lean on Me” from the Folks at FaithGateway

 

The fine folks at FaithGateway posted a free chapter of Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community today. Here’s a little tease; you can click over to their website for the rest!

They’re also offering 20% off the book, too! (Insert your own verbiage about stocking stuffers or Christmas shopping here…I’ll save you the grief.)

Much love,

Anne Marie

***

Sometimes the only way to return is to go. — Josh Garrels

Leaving behind four years of friendships in Nashville, I moved to California, confidently running, fearless in my decision to escape. It was like my runaway attempt when I was in kindergarten, except now I was taller than the corn stalks and could see my way to a new home. The safety I craved appeared to exist in anonymity. I had nothing to prove to anyone, no questions to answer or expectations to meet. Surely this was the right choice. The voice of my independence distorted the voices of my friends in Nashville telling me to stay.

A new job, new friends, and the healing air of the Pacific Ocean blowing through the windows assured me my decision to move to California was a good move to make.

After work each day, I drove to the house where I rented a room, perched up on the side of a mountain, and watched the sun drop into the ocean as though it had a five-hundred-pound weight attached to the bottom of it. This was my daily commute, and in spite of the small fortune I spent in tolls each way, it was breathtaking every time. My days were kept busy at a growing architecture firm where I helped plan events and managed publicity. It was easy to spend twelve hours a day at work finding something to improve or a new project to begin.

The busyness didn’t bother me at all; in fact, it was a welcome distraction to the grief I was experiencing over the loss of my marriage. Soon, I found myself hopping from plane to plane, running across airport terminals all over the United States for company events. That accomplished two things: it caused a diversion to the growing pain I was desperately avoiding and it separated me from the beginnings of community I was starting to form in California. In the midst of my new job, I was also on a book tour promoting my second book, Permission to Speak Freely, which took me away from my new home in California even more.

The stress of being a full-time author and speaker as well as a full-time publicity manager affected me physically, and I lost weight and couldn’t sleep most nights. But somehow this was okay. Only a month and a half into my new life as a California girl, in between a taping for a Christian television broadcast in Texas for my book and an architecture meeting in Arkansas, I sent a text message to my friend Liz. Liz was a friend who I knew would speak words of truth that I was willing to listen to.

Me: Can be honestIm not sure if movinto California wathe right thing.

A few moments later, she replied. Can call you?

Sure. Give me fifteen minuteto get to my hotel room.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat cross-legged on one of the double beds in my hotel room in Little Rock and waited for Liz to call.

“Why isn’t it working out?” she asked.

“I just feel so disconnected. From everything. I’m traveling so much I can’t do things with my new friends in California. The time zone makes it hard to connect with my old friends back in Nashville. I’m starting to recognize flight attendants on the Dallas to Orange County segment I’m on every week. I feel as if they know what’s going on in my life more than my roommates even do.”

“I think moving to California was a mistake,” she said without pause.

“Um, well, that’s a bold statement.”

“What do you want me to tell you, Anne? You’re running.”

“I just needed a fresh start.”

“No, you need to heal.”

“I am healing.”

“Are you?”

I sat silently, staring at the dated pink floral pattern of the bedspread.

“Go,” she said. “Go to the place where it hurts your heart so much you simply can’t stand it and you feel like you want to die. Go to the place where the infection is thick and rotting and it smells and burns. You have to go to the bottom of the wound and start there. It is the only way to begin healing. Where is that place for you?”…

(READ THE REST OF THE CHAPTER HERE…)

“Lean on Me” Book Club Discount + Free Shipping

Last weekend, I spoke at a church. Saturday was a women’s retreat and we focused on my new book Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent CommunityEach woman got a copy of the book. On Sunday, something awesome happened that blew my mind a little bit. About a third of the women who got a book on Saturday came back to buy another book on Sunday for a friend so they could work through it together.

THAT WAS JUST SO NEAT.

This was not a pat-on-the-back moment for me. Yes, I’m really quite happy with the way the story was written in Lean on Me, but what delighted me to my core were two things:

  • People need to know they’re loved
  • People want others to know they’re loved

And though Lean on Me is not a “how-to” book (If you know anything about me, you should know I am not fond of “how-to-do” anything. Discovery is a sacred process.), the story of how others loved me through a very painful and messy time in my life, and in turn, how through those people I saw Jesus makes me want EVERYONE to have this same kind of community.

The kind people at my publisher agree and have a special offer for the next month. If you buy 6 or more copies of Lean on Me, you’ll get 40% off AND free shipping. 

The book has a chapter-by-chapter study guide in the back with questions, actionable steps and a prayer for each chapter. It’s totally perfect for small groups, for book clubs, for friends.

LeanOnMe_bulkoffer1

 

To get the Book Club offer:

  • Head over to FaithGateway
  • When you check out, type in “leanonme” in the coupon code area.

You’ll get each book for under $10 which is a pretty sweet deal and again, totally free shipping.

I hope this allows you to dive into this really important message that I believe in with all my little heart and soul.

Much love,

Anne Marie

How Do You Know It’s Safe to be Vulnerable?

Do you have solid community in your life? I thought I could answer that question with an easy “YES!” until a crisis hit. It took that crisis for me to evaluate how I relate to God and to others.

Today my book Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community is officially out and available for your perusal.

lean-on-me-endorsement

My dear friend Shelia–who is a character in the book, and a protagonist in my life–said this about it:

Lean on Me is not a stale “how to” book with seven action points to automatically fix all your relationship woes. It is a story. A glorious, difficult, hope-filled story.”

In order to have a rich community surrounding us, one of the key values we must embrace is vulnerability. In Lean on Me, I talk about this complexity.

“A great misunderstanding in the world is that we must wait until we feel safe to be vulnerable with other people. They must earn our trust and show us they will not take our wounds and cause them to bleed more. We misconstrue the wisdom of guarding our hearts, our life’s wellspring, as a command to build a fortress around them.

We are never safe from pain, and safety has nothing to do with vulnerability.

Vulnerability will hurt…It is a paradox: once we realize being vulnerable is never safe, we are then free to be vulnerable. We guard our hearts by giving them to the Guardian. We accept the fact that hurt will come. We see wounds as gifts. When this dramatic shift in our spirit occurs, fear no longer controls us.”

You can 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.

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

Much 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.