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

The Miracle of Patience: A Letter to Our First Child

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Dearest One,

Your conception was a miracle. Ten months after our first miscarriage, six months after our second, and one week after I was simultaneously searching for a surgeon to perform a radical hysterectomy while being prayed over by friends and strangers because of a debilitating condition that affected my fertility, you were conceived.

It shouldn’t have even happened then. I ovulated a week early from an ovary that had no fallopian tube connecting it to my womb. But somehow, in some way, the other tube found you floating around, swept you up, and planted you into my innermost part.

Five weeks later, I was so tired, exhausted by an unmistakable fatigue I have only experienced twice in my life–once ten months before and once four months after that. Could it be? Could I be?

My cycle was a week late, so the next time I was at the market, I picked up a box of two tests. It was on sale and cheaper than the single. I followed the instructions. Waited two minutes. Only one line appeared. I wasn’t pregnant.

The tiredness continued throughout the week, but I chalked it up to Thanksgiving festivities and the new cold weather and grey skies. I woke up on Black Friday with the sun, and made my way to the guest bath, as not to disturb my sleeping husband (or the two dogs, who would start howling for the breakfast).

In a basket next to the sink, I saw the second test. Would five days make a difference? I gave in to the white, plastic temptation. Followed the instructions. Waited two minutes.

Two. Lines.

Immediately, two bold lines.

Just five days beforehand, I told Tim that I wasn’t pregnant, and our lives went on as normal. But now?

I went back into the bedroom and quietly sat by him with the test. I showed him. We held each other, dogs vying for our attention, unaware of the angels who were undoubtedly rejoicing with us.

A blood test and ultrasound first showed you–well, the small, almond-sized sac you were living in. We couldn’t see you just yet. A few weeks went by, and we first saw your plump head and your flickering heartbeat.

Now, here we are a third of the way in our journey to meeting you. I wish I could say the miracle of you was enough to remind me to be joyful and grateful at all times (as it should be), but I have not been the perfect carrier of life. I’ve been angry when I’m sick, or tired, or in pain. I’ve been upset at the way all the changing hormones in my body cause strange things to happen. Now that my old pants don’t fit and my body is slowly growing into something I don’t recognize, it’s been hard for my broken mind to adjust.

It’s almost like you know when I need a reminder. Just the other night after poking on my unfamiliar rounding belly, you leapt in my womb. It was such a strange and lovely feeling; a feeling I know will become normal over time. And soon, you’ll enter the world, and you will yawn and cry and pee and poop and spit up all over everything. And you will wrap your tiny fingers around one of mine or one of Tim’s. And you’ll change before our eyes and we won’t be able to remember every headache, cramp, or sleepless night.

Your presence is teaching me a patience far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. In a world where I can get almost anything I need or want almost instantly, nine months seems like a terribly long time to wait for something. At times, it seems like July is an eternity away. But with each slow moment that passes, my mind is as equally slow to change to cherish every moment with you now–every non-repeated, hard, holy moment. It is a rhythm of grace I am happy to relinquish my fast, predictable pace to.

As a Christian for almost 36 years, I’ve been well versed in the miracle of the birth of Jesus. How a small, humble baby came to change the world; how he came to change me.

Sweet child, you are a miracle to me. You are changing me, silently now. As your fingernails form and your legs lengthen, my heart is reforming and my hope lengthens.

Sweet child, yes, I can’t wait to meet you. But I’m perfectly thankful for where you are now.

 

When God Gives You a Miracle

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

Image Credit: Godaya Komen

I’ve always struggled with faith.

Not my belief in God (though sometimes, I have).

But my belief in what God can do.

And more specifically, what God can do in and through me.

I’m a pragmatist, even as emotional as I can be. I’m rational. I’m realistic.

In regard to healing, I’ve seen God heal others of much, and me of much.

I’ve also seen Him not heal, at least in the way people prayed. (True, they were “healed the other side of heaven,” but sometimes things just don’t make sense on this side.)

For twenty years, I’ve battled a painful fight with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It sounds weird, but essentially once a month, this tissue causes much inflammation, lesions, bleeding, and curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry kinds of pain. It affects fertility and when it’s happening, I’m essentially useless for two or three days. It hurts to walk. To eat. To watch TV.

I’ve had surgery to have it removed, but as long as there are hormones in my body, it will always come back. The only true “cure” is a radical hysterectomy, removing all reproductive parts, and staying off estrogen therapy, which causes early, surgical menopause – a much faster, more intense process than the normal “change of life.”

It would also mean ending any chance Tim and I have of biologically conceiving our own baby, without going to extreme measures.

Sunday night and into Monday, it felt like a fire was ripping through my abdomen, down my legs, up to my shoulders, into my knees. Tim and I were supposed to go to a movie premiere for a movie about healing, Holy Ghost Reborn​, but thought it would be best if I stayed home instead and he went.

I started looking for an OBGYN in Iowa to discuss options, including a radical hysterectomy. I fell asleep. I woke up and asked Tim if they had started praying after the movie yet, and if not, if he could go up there to pray with someone about this.

As my text made it through to him, he was already on his way for prayer.

A woman named Anne (yep), met him in the front and asked what she could pray for. He explained our situation.

The other Anne also suffered from endometriosis.

The other Anne said my faith has made me well (important to note: this was also the passage we studied at church on Sunday, which I shouldn’t have heard because I was supposed to work in the nursery, but someone else really wanted to work in there instead, so I was able to be in the service).

The other Anne said we’d have many kids (I’m hoping not any more fur babies; two dogs are enough, thanks).

And when I received the texts from Tim telling me this, I began weeping in bed, still grieving the miscarriages from this year, afraid that it could be true, that I could be healed, afraid that it wasn’t true, that I could not be healed.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.48.17 AM

Because God doesn’t always heal people like we think.

Tim got home, told me to put my jeans back on and believe the T-shirt I was wearing. “What t-shirt?” I had dressed for bed in the dark. I looked down and was wearing the “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt Tim’s friend made. We were going to go back to the movie theatre and get more prayer.

A few minutes later, we pulled in.

Nobody was there.

My Doubting Thomas said, “See? see? This healing isn’t for you!”

Tim calls our pastor, Dan.

“Can you guys pray over Anne?”

Ten minutes later, late at night, we arrived at Dan’s house. I waddled in, hunched over in pain, still crying, still confused, still angry, still grieving, and still hopeful. I was honest. I said I don’t believe God always heals, so I should have no right to expect it. I don’t want to get my hopes up and be let down. My faith is already so small.

Dan and his wife Sarah prayed over us. My body felt numb and I didn’t know why. Pain meds? All the crying and emotions and it was late? An hour later we walked out, exhausted. I went straight to bed when we got home, my eyes swollen and painful from crying.

I slept through the night, only rising when a dog kicked me in the ribs. My eyes were still sore, but I wandered into the kitchen for some water. Looking out the window, over the bluffs and allowing my eyes adjust to the new light of day, I realized something.

I felt…different.

I wasn’t in pain.

If you know anything about endometriosis, the pain doesn’t just suddenly stop, especially in the middle of an episode. It may lessen or come and go, but it doesn’t stop.

But more than the lack of pain, something in my heart–that hole that was left by knowing how broken my insides are–the grief that has been weighing on me for most of this year…it was gone.

It was removed.

I tiptoed around the apartment getting ready to run to the grocery store, afraid if I made too much noise, somehow the pain, both the physical and emotional pain, would wake up and come back.

But it didn’t.

I told friends who were praying for me, fighting for me, waging war in the heavens for me, what happened. I confessed to Sarah my fear that it was surreal, and reality would set in soon. She wrote back:

“There was an old African village lady God healed in the movie, a witch doctor, but she did not smile. The guy explained that the older generation always had a saying…’don’t smile today because tomorrow you will cry.’

The pastor that healed her (who had a crazy story) said, ‘I smile today because I don’t care about tomorrow!’ Meaning he was thankful for the miracles today held, and he fully trusted God for whatever tomorrow held. Eventually they got this old lady who had been healed to smile and even dance. It was precious. Enjoy your miracle today!”

Do I know what will happen tomorrow? At this time next month? In a year? Will I have a baby, or a radical hysterectomy? Will I be sidelined with pain or dancing in new healing?

I don’t.

But as my friend Sarah says, I will enjoy my miracle today.

After I returned from the grocery store, Tim asked how I felt. Being a non-verbal processor, I wasn’t quite sure how to put into words what happened. Honestly? A part of me was afraid to say, “I think I’m healed.” But the words slowly made it out of my mouth.

He sat in the orange chair across from the sectional, ADD getting the best of him, and while celebrating with me, noticed a weird reflection on our ceiling.

“What’s that reflection coming from?” I looked up and saw some red.

“Oh, it’s probably that red bottle on the window sill.”

He moved it, the reflection didn’t change.

“Are you kidding me? Look how big it is!” A full array of colors, a rainbow, displayed over me on the ceiling. Tim looked out the window and noticed the sunrise was shining on a No Parking sign down on the street, five floors down.

The sign was reflecting that rainbow all the way into our apartment window, directly over me, at that very moment.

“It’s God’s promise to you.” Tim said.

This does not feel normal to me. It does not feel comfortable. The devil and the angel on my shoulders are still playing a game of tug-of-war. But I have been surrounded by prayer, covered in promises, and so I will walk in faith. I will take up my mat and tell, I will sing, I will dance, and I will smile about what God has done.

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

And to Him be the glory for the things He has done.

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

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

mothers-day-for-childless-anne-marie-miller

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.

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)

Sex and Pornography Are Not the Enemies

Sex and pornography are not the enemies, but we are in a fight.

A quick timeline, for those of you who might be new here.

1996: A youth pastor I trust sexually violates me. Also my first introduction to online pornography, which later becomes a compulsive behavior. (Compulsive sexual behaviors are not classified by the DSM as addictions – at best, they’re hypersexual disorders, which still doesn’t define what I would consider pornography addiction to be. Anyway, carry on.)

2001: A friend opens up to me about her pornography habits, masturbation, and lust. Her choosing to “go first” gave me permission to share with her the shame I carried. Over the course of a couple years, we take a holistic approach to recovery.

2006: I write an article on how girls can be addicted to pornography for Relevant

2007: I speak for the very first time to a youth group and on a radio station in Dallas on how porn’s not just a guy’s problem.

2008: God finds my fear of public speaking humorous as more and more speaking requests come in. I’m now visiting churches, colleges, and conferences with this story while working full time at a church.

2009: My first book comes out and my speaking schedule is enough to keep the bills paid. I’m now a full-time self-employed author and speaker. This continues for the next five years.

2013: After speaking at youth camps over the summer, I write a letter to parents about what they don’t know about their kids and sex based on the experience. By the end of the week, 1.5 million people read the darn thing. I am asked to speak even more about pornography and freedom.

2014: I’ve had six speaking engagements on this topic and five of them I’ve been sick for. I’ve gone to the ER three times the week before these talks. That’s how sick I was. One I was so sick for I had to cancel and reschedule it. The first time, I chalked it up to bad luck. But now…in 83% of my speaking engagements only on this topic I’ve been tempted to cancel because of illness or injury?  I am starting to feel like there’s a target on my back. (It should be noted that I rarely get sick. The last time I got really sick was in 2010.)

Photo Credit: CNN

Photo Credit: CNN

I don’t write this blog post from a state of fear (okay, maybe a little bit…!) But instead, it has only clarified to me the need for discussions to happen. I spoke at a high school night at a church in town last night. I was handed about 10 index cards with questions from the students after I was done speaking and one girl was insightful enough to say, Why are these conversations about lust generally directed toward guys when women struggle with it just as much?”

Good, honest question. I responded with “Yes, girls are frequently left out of this conversation, but most churches don’t even touch this with their guys.” More churches are, and I’m thrilled. But most churches are not.

Here is my challenge to you, my manifesto, the hill I will die on, and also what I instructed the girls to do last night.

Make a ruckus. Make your leaders talk about this. 

We are in a fight. We frequently point blame to the media and to pornography and to sex as the enemy. These things, especially sex, are NOT the enemy. Sex is a beautiful thing that we’ve been given to express love to our spouse. The media and pornography are simply tools the enemy uses to break us down, to addict us, to cause us to carry shame instead of strength and hopelessness instead of hope.

Our enemy is Satan. Plain and simple.

The reason I think we are in the heat of the fight is because I know I’m feeling the heat. And if I’m just one person out of many who are sharing this message that freedom and hope are both possible and necessary, I know there are others who are fighting to speak up, too.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Pray. Pray always. Pray for your family, your church leaders, and the people who are called and committed to sharing the message of God’s grace and hope to those broken by addictive behaviors and our children who are slammed with images and easy access.
  2. Know what your family’s doing. Have conversations that are uncomfortable. Set limits and boundaries on the internet and even how your child will respond to pressure when you’re not there. Have you made a plan with him or her when someone else brings over their phone at school that has an inappropriate image on it? Have that talk.
  3. Fight. Statistics tell me over half the people reading this are in a battle of their own. Please get help. Tell someone. Tell just one person. Do whatever is necessary, even if it’s extreme, to fight for freedom.
  4. Love your enemies. We can’t get angry at the media or the pornography industry. We also need to pray for the people trapped in there. Statistically, a lot of them don’t want to be there. Pray the love of God is so bright that darkness doesn’t exist anymore.
  5. Talk to your church leaders. Whoever is in charge of what is talked about at your church, ask them about this. Heck, relentlessly ask them about addressing this topic with adults, with students, and from a parenting point of view. Engage your church in a prayerful revival expectant on God to deliver those who are trapped and to use others who aren’t to heal. WE NEED EACH OTHER.
  6. Learn. I’ve created two resources pages for you with books I’ve read or trust enough to recommend. First, 20 Resources for Parents (you need to scroll down just a little) and I’m working on a new resource page with some nerdy brain books I love as well as some other books on pornography and women and talking to kids. You can get to that page here.

Please join me in this fight. This is one where denomination doesn’t matter, socioeconomics don’t matter, your age doesn’t matter. We need to link arms as the body of Christ and fight the enemy from stealing so many precious and good things from us.

We got this. And God’s got us.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor

marydemuth-headshot-squareToday, I am so thrilled to share a guest post from my friend Mary DeMuth. Mary and I met when I worked at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. People knew I was writing and thought it’d be cool for me to meet a real author, so Mary came in and we chatted. She sent me a copy of her book and told me one day, maybe I’d have my book contract. Two years later, I did.

Beyond writing, Mary and I share a common thread that’s a little more faded, a little thinner. We were both sexually abused. Though our stories differ, our hearts beat the same for helping others know there is hope beyond abuse. We have survived, and you can too.

Here’s a letter from her to you. Or maybe to someone you know.

Love, Anne

(Get Mary’s Book Not Marked as an eBook here and a paperback here.).

***

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,

I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.

I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.

First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free. 

It’s not fair.

Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.

Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.

In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.

All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.

An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.

That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever.

Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.

I know there are questions. I have them too. 

  • Why did God allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
  • Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
  • Why can’t I ever feel normal?
  • Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
  • Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
  • What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
  • Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
  • Why am I here?
  • What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
  • Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?

I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.

When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.

He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.

NOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DThat’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.

Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.

But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.

Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.

I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.

Joyfully free,

Mary

***

I’m humbled and grateful to be here today. A huge thank you to Anne for allowing me to share my heart. A little background. I’ve shared my sexual abuse story in the last few years, but I haven’t always been so open. Initially I kept it silent for a decade, then over-shared, then went silent another decade. The healing journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been good.

About a year ago, I sensed God wanted me to be bold in sharing about sexual abuse. I wrote “The Sexy Wife I Cannot Be” on Deeper Story, which went crazy (so many comments), followed by “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife” on Christianity Today. The overwhelming response to those two posts prompted me to write Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse.

The book proved too risky for publishers, so I decided to crowdfund it, which turned out to be an amazing success. I cannot believe that now I can hold Not Marked in my hands, and also offer it to you. What’s unique about it: It’s written from the perspective of a survivor. It doesn’t offer cliche answers. It’s honest. And my husband shared his unique journey of how to walk a loved one through their sexual abuse.