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

Breaking Up with Nashville?

It’s kinda crazy. After a year in Nashville, we weren’t sure if it was the place for us to start a family and raise kids…so we began exploring a few ideas.

One of these ideas was a casting call for young couples who were thinking of “breaking up” with their city. We applied as a joke, not realizing it was a real reality show on FYI, a station under A&E. After a ton of Skype calls, cameras showed up to our house in Nashville and we began the process of finding our next home.

The Millers on My City's Not that Into Me on FYI Nashville Season 1 Episode 1

We filmed for a few weeks, really…long…days. How they managed to make this into a 21.5 minute show is beyond me. I’ll be just as surprised as you to what made the cut!

Reality shows have a bad rap for being over produced and fake. Not once in this process did we feel we weren’t being us. We had to reshoot some things from different angles, but all-in-all, it’s a REAL reality show that shares our journey in breaking up with Nashville.

It airs on March 4 at 9pm CST on FYI, which I think is on most cable stations. Since it’s a Wednesday night, we have youth group, and we don’t have cable. We’ll actually be watching it the next day, so don’t tell us any spoilers!

You can see the preview for our episode here! (It may take a few seconds for the video to show up!)

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year from the icy plains of west Texas. Tim and I are almost back to Lubbock after a few extra days of adventurous travel. The new manuscript is due in two weeks and wow-it has been a wonderful learning experience. I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season. I’ll see you back online in a couple more weeks after that next book is turned in!

Much love-Anne

Why All The “Modesty Conversations” Miss The Point

Last summer, the feeds in my various social media channels blew up with articles on modesty.

How low is too low when it comes to necklines? One piece or two piece swimsuits (or, the generally-church-camp-approved tankini?) Spaghetti straps, tanks, or sleeveless? AND THE PLIGHT OF THE YOGA PANTS (oh, but it’s okay if your butt is covered!)

And then articles followed on what Paul meant when he spoke of modesty (more of a financial context), how men (and women) are responsible for their thoughts and actions (pluck out your eye, sinner! it’s not my fault you can’t look at me without seeing me as an object!) and how culture plays into what we consider “modest” even means.

The summer heat is upon us once again, as are all these conversations on modesty. In a mindless and brief skimming down my Facebook feed Sunday night, I’m fairly certain I saw more posts on modesty (and satirical ones at that) than I did the World Cup.

(What has this country come to? Come on, y’all. It’s the World Cup!)

The arguments were all the same, men and women pitted against the other team, one side crying “FREEDOM” and the other crying “RESPONSIBILITY!”

…as if these two are mutually exclusive?

This is not a post on whether or not your bikini will make Jesus mad or cause a man to lust after you. This is not a cultural dissection of contextual modesty. I’ve been to almost every continent and have seen completely covered and completely bare, depending on the culture. I understand how it works.

This is a post on why most of the conversations I’ve read on modesty – regardless of the point someone is trying to make – are, in fact, well…missing the point.

There is something more at stake than your clothing choices. 

And that thing is community.

It is another person, another flesh-on-spirit, imago dei.

It is your family, your brother or sister given with a Holy being, intertwined with your own.

***

BUT FREEDOM!

Paul talks about freedom in Christ. A death on a cross gives us freedom to live. I hear cries of “I am not responsible if someone sins because of the way I am dressed!” And you are not. To a point. You do have freedom. And I think the greatest freedom is to choose to say no to your freedom for the sake of another person.

We hear “Don’t dress to make a man like you. Don’t dress to make a woman like you. Dress to make you like you.”

That, my friend, is not freedom.

Let’s call it for what it is: entitlement. Many of us feel entitled to do what we want, to wear what we want, and to behave how we want to behave. Loving another is not about how we feel or even embracing our freedom.

True freedom is laying down your life for another.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:3)

***

 

BUT REALLY, PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN THOUGHTS! I COULD WEAR A MUMU AND BE A “STUMBLING BLOCK!”

Yes. People are accountable for their own actions. You could wear a mumu and someone may undress that mumu right off you. I am not minimizing the responsibility we all have for our decisions to act against what we know is true and right and lovely.

“Well, if I walked into a McDonald’s and ate 70 Big Macs, I’m responsible for that, not McDonald’s.”

You’re right. But McDonald’s was not created in the image of God.

You were. And so is your neighbor.

We say someone else should take responsibility to not sin & we have freedom to do as we please. True. But let’s take this a step further. 

Maybe we should take responsibility for another so they can have freedom instead of struggle.

The truth is we are responsible for one another. We are not to judge or criticize people for thinking or acting differently than we do where there is freedom, but we are also to encourage others to be holy, not condemn them to it.

There is not love in telling a man or woman to suck it up and deal with their lust problem so we can dress how we please.

***

There is a picture here larger than the conversation of modesty. We are believers warring against each other under the name of freedom and waving the flags of entitlement. This idea can be copied and pasted over so many areas – alcohol, food, fill-in-the-blank.

My fear is we get so wrapped up in our freedom that we can’t show love – true, sacrificial love – for each other.

And when the world reads our passionate war words, they don’t see the love of Christ we are to love each other with, which is what our ultimate charge is.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (Romans 13:8)

We Saw Them Become Orphans

It was our fourth time to Africa, but our first time to go as a pair.

Tim was hired by The Alliance for Children Everywhere to write some scripts, shoot some video, and edit it for a curriculum churches and schools will use back in the states that will help raise awareness and funds for their work in Zambia.

What does ACE do? Rescue children who would otherwise die. That’s what their website says, point-blank. They do a lot more than that, but that’s a pretty big first step.

About a week before the trip, I learned we’d be staying in The House of Moses, the rescue center for babies who’ve been orphaned or abandoned. I knew instantly I would fight the duality between loving that we got to stay there (because who doesn’t like to play with a room full of babies and toddlers?) and the reality that I would want to do so much more than stay there and play. I’d battle that instinct most of us have to want to make everything right, even things that are well beyond our grasp.

House of Moses

We were told it was likely we would see people dropping off abandoned babies. The house was small. We could be having dinner at the table (which is right next to the front door) and someone could come in with a baby that was found in a latrine. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened there.

For the most part, our time there was pretty low-key. Some babies got dropped off, and one who was adopted went home. A mother who was in the process of adopting one of the children would come at dinner time most nights. It was clear these babies had hope and a future.

Our last week, The House of Moses received 3 siblings. A toddler and newborn twins – a boy and a girl. The twins were only 3 weeks old and were only slightly larger than my hand. We learned their father died of HIV and their mother was in the hospital sick, likely because of HIV too. The twins stayed in the intake room, a quieter space with three cribs and 24/7 care.

Once they were sure the twins were healthy, we were welcome to hold them any time we wanted. Now, I’m one of those people who have an irrational fear of dropping newborns, but after a day or two, I pushed through and picked up the little boy. His name? Gift.

House of Moses

Days went by and I found myself in the intake room with the twins more and more. If I was sitting in the front room reading and one started crying, I could look down at my watch and see it was time for them to be fed. Some kind of maternal instincts of mine were awakened. I was no longer afraid. I could comfort them if they cried or get a nurse if they needed milk…all while praying their mother survived.

One morning, I went into the room and rubbed on their thin hands in just before we left. We returned from a full day of filming and we were told the mother passed away. In just a few short hours, these babies lost their mamma.

I went in to the intake room fighting tears, and one of the caregivers was feeding the little girl.

“The mother died,” she told me.

I reached down to put my finger in Gift’s small hand. “I heard.”

It was a raw and surreal moment, looking down at Gift and knowing he won’t remember his mother. I wondered what would happen to him, his twin sister, and their older sibling.  I started to cry.

I moved down and knelt on the floor in front of the caregiver and gently rubbed the back of Gift’s sister’s leg. “How do you do it?” I asked the caregiver. “How do you work all the hours you work and see so many babies lose their parents. The parents die. Sometimes even the babies die. But you’re here and you have so much peace and hope in your eyes.

Without hesitation and without a single tone of harshness or pride, she simply said, “Obedience and sacrifice. That is what God has told me to do and so I do it.”

I literally couldn’t say anything back; my throat swelled and closed like I was allergic to the emotion that was filling it. Instinctually, the caregiver knew and said, “They will have a good family one day. It’s hard now, but God promises to take care of them.”

I know she’s right and ultimately God will take care of them. But what do I do? What do we do? Where is our sacrifice and obedience?

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I’m tempted to think big acts equal big sacrifice, but I’m beginning to believe that – except for the one big sacrifice that was truly the greatest – the opposite is true. What if it’s the everyday things that are hidden that are the greatest sacrifices of all? Making sure people have love, food, and that they know Jesus.

Maybe it’s as simple – and as unglamorous – as that.

And even though may be unglamorous, it doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.

In fact, I’d dare to say the things we don’t see are the most beautiful things of all.

 

Are You Easily Distracted Like Me? (Quick, Check Twitter One More Time Before Reading This. I Probably Am).

Tim and I live in an apartment in Historic Franklin, Tennessee. 

If I had to guess, there are probably 300 units in our development. 600 people, give or take. When I pull in to the driveway, I pass a few buildings. When I take our puppy on walks, I pass even more. Each apartment (or townhouse) is built exactly the same.

Same windows.

Same curtains.

Same sliding glass door.

Because of the way the living room is laid out, everyone’s TVs is cornered in between a wall and the patio door.

Rectangles glow out of living room after living room after living room. Grids of LEDs and plasmas and flickering pixels illuminate every unit, including my own.*

(*under the glow of twinkle lights on the patio, of course.)

television

There are two people in my house. Six apple products. One TV.

Screens, screens, screens.

How long have TVs been around? Sixty years? Seventy? Smart phones. Six? Seven?

In between episodes of Friday Night Lights (yes, I’m bringing that back up again), my eyes go from the big screen in the corner to the little screen on the ottoman. They move from Coach Taylor to Candy Crush.

Our puppy whines. Even she knows a screen subtracts from the attention we give her. When I pick up my phone, she whimpers. Every. Time.

***

I had the flu, or pneumonia, or both, for three weeks this month. I am still fighting off lingering symptoms of fatigue and aches and coughing. For one of those three weeks, I was too tired or medicated to look at any screen.

My mind raced and crossed the finish line in rural America. Rural churches. Churches in the places like where I grew up in west Texas; where it’s so remote you hit SCAN on the radio and it doesn’t stop because there are no stations. Where, if you have a cell phone now, it bounces between an American and a Mexican carrier. I think of rural churches I’ve heard of in Ohio.

Or I think of my friend who pastors a small church in South Dakota. No time for Facebook. Her days are full of funerals and hospital visits.

And I wonder…

Is distraction one of Satan’s biggest tools?

Are these screens we use to relax and to communicate pulling us away from doing the hard work of reaching out, flesh to flesh, to people who haven’t even heard of the saving grace of Jesus?

I realize there are always distractions; if it’s not a screen it’s something else. But night after night these glowing grids of screens haunt me with their soft light.

by Kool Cats Photography

***

It’s a long story with a lot of complexities, far too long to type here (maybe I’ll tell you over coffee one day?), but my dad is in one of these rural towns. It’s in between two state highways in the barren flat land of the west Texas plains. You’d pass through it on Dry Hollow Road, if that paints any picture for you.

Population? 200 or so. Murders in the last three years? Two, including the original pastor of the church where my dad presently shepherds. 

20 people or so attend his church on Sundays, maybe five to ten youth and a smattering of children. People hunger: physically and spiritually. Build it and they will come? In his case, feed them and they will come.

Honestly? It’s difficult for me to see multi-million dollar building campaigns for churches in middle-class suburbia. But I get it. I sometimes go to one of these churches and almost have panic attacks because it’s so crowded. They need more space. They really do.

But then I look at my dad’s church. It needs air conditioning so people don’t have heat strokes in service in the middle of a dry Texas summer. It needs the cracked wall fixed so insects/rodents/snakes/rain/freak snow storms don’t come in.

These are all needs – I don’t want to present it otherwise.

But some needs go forgotten.

Some needs are lost each time I log in to Twitter.

My eyes get turned back on me when I find my triggers of insecurity and envy after checking Instagram.

I get so mesmerized by my screens, by not getting the things I think I deserve, by my misplaced identity that I can’t see anyone else.

I’m distracted. And I think it’s hurting me.

But more importantly, I think it’s hurting the world.

 

 

 

I Lied to My Husband

For three months, I’ve lied to my husband.

I told him I had a speaking engagement in Georgia, and I didn’t.

But we drove anyway.

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And we arrived at one of my favorite places in the world; a farm where I mourned the loss of a dear friend, have been loved and have loved. Where I wrote a big chunk of my next book and burned a few of my demons, committing their ashes to the bottom of a lake.

Sometimes, lying is okay.

Sometimes, taking a break is too.

Be back Friday.

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