Nash-livin’

Remember God.

on July 18, 2017 in Dreams Coming True, Nash-livin' with 7 comments by

I have a couple of memories of this career, this season of my life, this calling, this thing I do, that I know will never leave me.

And teaching at Cross Point Church on Sunday will absolutely be one of them.

This has been my home church since 2011- so to be able to share part of my story and what God has done for me, from that stage, in such a special season for our church, was truly more than I could have asked or imagined.

And someday soon (on a podcast of course) our new pastor Kevin Queen and I will tell you the whole story of how he got here and what this means for Nashville, our church, and my life personally. (Repeat: more than I could have asked or imagined.)

And yes. I wore my glitter heels. DUH I DID. I won’t lie, it was borderline brutal, but always worth it.

If you were unable to see me preach when they streamed it live on Sunday, here is the message! Feel free to share it with people in your life that need just a gentle reminder that God is who HE says He is.

. . . . .

Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.

. . . . .

. . . . .

(I’d also like to say that there were a couple of my people who really spoke into this message and made it right. It takes a village, and in my village are some incredibly smart people who love communicating well about God. I’m the luckiest. So thanks to those who walked with me to that stage, whether you were in the room or not.)

. . . . .

When Lent hurts.

on March 29, 2017 in Nash-livin', Perfectly Unique with 41 comments by

It’s not a complicated story.

I gave up makeup for Lent.

And it’s terrible.

It’s about control. I knew it as soon as the idea was dropped into my heart the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, the start of the season. It’s about how I try to control everything, including what you think of me. And what you think of my face.

(You may have noticed it’s a bit of a theme me and God are working with right now – control – as explained in my SheReadsTruth piece for this Lent reading plan.)

And it’s terrible. This no makeup thing? It’s a daily struggle. It’s not like every person I see I get to explain, “by the way, I know what you’ve seen in pictures but I’m not wearing makeup right now but it’s really me hi will you still be my friend?”

Sigh.

It hurts. It’s bringing up all sorts of muck from the bottom of my emotional ocean that I never intended to be stirred up. Old insecurities. Fears. Worries. And it’s constant. That’s the thing that sucks the most. I never escape it. It never leaves my mind. In every place I go, in every face I make eye contact with, including my own in the mirror.

But it matters. The pain matters. I sat with a friend the other day as we discussed some things that we want God to do in our lives. She said, “the good stuff is never cheap.”

It isn’t. I’ve never found the best things in life to be free or easy or without struggle.

And that has been this. I know it in my guts, even if I don’t even know the good that will come of this yet. But good will come. That’s how this all works. That’s how it always works.

Today though? I’m mainly just ready for it to be over, if I’m being honest.

But I’m not quitting. I will finish this.

Last week, I saw that my friend Jeremy Cowart was offering portrait sessions here in town. I thought about it long and hard and decided that I wanted this experience documented. I want to remember the wrestling. I want to remember the things God has whispered to me in the secret place over these last few weeks and the layers that are slowly peeling away. I want to remember the Lent that I otherwise would work hard to forget.

So I did it. I went and had a portrait session with not one stitch of makeup on my face. Woof.

After Jeremy took my picture for about 15 minutes, he invited me around to the monitor side to see some of the shots. I hated most of them. If you’ve ever done a photoshoot (professional hair and makeup or none of the above), you know that’s pretty true no matter what. But I winced a few more times than usual as Jeremy slid through the images he had captured. As only a big brother can do, Jeremy kept reassuring me that he was on my team and loved me and the pictures were beautiful.

Then we hit this one- this one picture of me looking away and trying to speak truth to my mind and taking a deep breath. And I kind of love it. I guess I had never noticed my freckles before. Or the three bright grey strands of hair that stand out because being Annie means life is causing some greys. Or the fake dimples that age has gifted to the corners of my mouth. Or the creases and the spots and the bump on my nose and all the things that are me, right there.

So I thought I would share it.

Because maybe sometimes we think Lent is easy for everyone else but us. Or we think that insecurities are only for the weak. Or we think that we are bad people for struggling.

But you’re not. I’m not. We’re not.

I could have never dreamed how hard this would be before Lent began. And I don’t know the new that is coming on Easter. But I can feel the buds pushing their way to the surface, through all the dirt. And I’m believing that something beautiful will bloom from these painfully sown seeds.

. . . . .

(Small Lent caveat: I am wearing makeup when I teach at events. So if you’ve seen me on the road the last few weeks and I’ve been on a stage, yes. I’ve had on makeup.)

(Also. You can still book a portrait with Jeremy as well. So easy and so worth it.)

. . . . .

Want to hear more about Lent? Subscribe to my podcast and check out the Lent episode with the girls from SheReadsTruth!

. . . . .

They Came To Jerusalem….

on December 14, 2016 in Nash-livin' with 4 comments by

What happens when the Light that guides us seems to disappear?

Y’all know me. I don’t do this a lot. (Actually. I don’t know that I’ve ever done this…. have I?) But I haven’t stopped talking about this sermon all week and I’m so grateful for technology making a way for me to share it instead of just retelling the whole thing like I’ve been doing since Sunday.

The service on Sunday morning at my church was a bit of a game-changer for me… which, to be honest, you don’t really expect during Christmas. Right? I’ve read Matthew 2 a lot of times… anyone who celebrates Christmas or reads the Bible during Advent has crossed over the story of the Magi, the wise men who brought gifts to Jesus.

But what Pastor Chris pulled out of the scripture blew my mind.

So I hope you’ll take 36 minutes to watch this and find peace and comfort and revelation AND HOPE in this word. Because I think we have all asked the question Chris is asking here- what happens when you think you’ve followed God but ended up in the “wrong” place?

(video below… if you can’t see it for some reason, you can watch here on youtube.)





Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you are processing after you watch.

Isn’t She Lovely Contest!

on June 20, 2016 in Looking For Lovely, Nash-livin' with 1 comment by

isn'tshelovely

You guys. We are so so excited about the Looking For Lovely Weekend that is coming up SOON AND VERY SOON.

A lot of y’all are already planning to come, and many people are being brave.com and coming alone. WOOT. We support that and plan to give you friends friends friends while you are here.

But also, we know that there are some really amazing women who aren’t currently planning to come but would love to attend. Maybe a friend of yours? You have lovely friends and we want you guys to join us.

Every morning when I wake up, as I’m getting ready, I play “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder on my iPhone. I love him and I LOVE THAT SONG. So when we were thinking of how to give away some tickets, I thought, “ISN’T SHE LOVELY!” and hence the name of this contest.

We want YOU to nominate a friend who you think is LOVELY and deserves a free ticket to the Looking For Lovely Weekend!!!

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Post a picture of her (or you and her!) on your instagram account.
  2. Tell us about your friend (WHY IS SHE SO LOVELY?!?)!!
  3. Tell us why she should get a free ticket!
  4. Tag me in the caption (@anniefdowns)
  5. Include the hashtag #lovelycontest

You have until midnight CT on Thursday, June 23rd to post and then Friday, we will be reading through all the stories and picking a few women to invite to the event! (We will cover the ticket cost, but not travel or hotel.)

There may even be a chance (a chance? 😉 ) that the person nominating COULD POSSIBLY get a free ticket as well. YOU NEVER KNOW WITH ME, PEOPLE.

So if you know a college girl who would love some time in Nashville…

or a mama who needs a break….

or a single woman who just needs a weekend of fun….

OR ANY GAL ANY WHERE….

tell us about her!

We are looking for lovely, and we want to meet your friend!

(And. There are still a few tickets left to purchase if you want to come or know someone who wants to come. We will sell out soon, so don’t wait if you know you want to be here! AND YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO BE HERE.)

. . . . .

What happens when you lose.

on June 7, 2016 in Looking For Lovely, Nash-livin' with 9 comments by

What happens when you lose.
For starters, I have one billion pictures I want to post from the KLOVE Awards on Sunday night. I did a few on instagram – my red carpet look, with former UGA football coach and a true hero of mine, Coach Mark Richt, and with my sweet parents who came to Nashville for about 12 hours just to attend the show with me. But more pictures to come, don’t you worry about that.

It was a great experience. Seriously, SO GREAT. I got to meet some amazing artists like Jon Foreman that I LOVE. (That I KLOVE? Ouch. Puns forever.) I got to see tons of bands play that I would pay to see, and I ran into tons of friends from my Girls of Grace days and Nashville friends that I never see because we all travel so much. It was super super fun.

Here is a video from my snapchat of the day- getting ready that morning all the way until I got home from the awards that night.

. . . . .

Before I tell you how it felt to not win, let me tell you how it felt to be nominated: unbelievable.

Looking For Lovely is such a tiny new baby, just months old. The idea that this book is making an impact in enough lives that it would be noticed by KLOVE absolutely made me smile from ear to ear. I really hoped we would win- it doesn’t change my bank account or my twitter following to have a trophy from KLOVE, but it does get the book in front of a lot of eyes that don’t know me, and that’s important to me. And I love that book. So I love sharing it.

But it didn’t win.

Here’s the thing: Looking For Lovely losing the KLOVE Fan Award wasn’t anywhere near the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced, I didn’t cry or anything. But it’s just a strange feeling. A sad, strange feeling.

I have so so so much newfound respect for the movie stars who have to sit there, with a camera staring them down and an excited smile on their face for the winner, when maybe their heart, like my heart, fell to the floor when another name was called.

I felt sad because losing is terrible, no matter how you slice it.

I felt embarrassed because so many of you, my friends, voted for me and I didn’t want to have to tell you we lost.

I felt disappointed because I got my hopes up that we might win.

It doesn’t change the honor of nomination, it doesn’t change how much I loved the night. It just sucks to lose.

On my flight yesterday, I was reading Proverbs and a verse jumped out at me:

“Even in laughter the heart may ache.” — Proverbs 14:13 (NIV)

Right? Do you ever feel that? So while my heart may ache because Looking For Lovely lost, there was a lot of laughter, too. They can both exist in the same moment. I’m not scared of the mystery of that. I’m really okay with it.

And also? I was in a room absolutely full of losers.

Of the ten-ish awards, there were something like fifty to sixty nominees, and less than ten winners.

SO. MANY. LOSERS.

Hillsong United. Kari Jobe. Rebekah Lyons. Natalie Grant. Coach Richt. MercyMe. Jen Hatmaker. Chris Tomlin.

If that’s who you hang with in the “loser” category, I WILL TAKE IT.

So what happens when you lose a KLOVE Fan Award?

You feel your feelings, but you join a very cool club of people. And you have great memories from a night you’ll never forget.

Thank you, KLOVE. And thank you to all my friends who voted. We’ll get ’em next time.

. . . . .

FashionABLE’s Fall Faves! (+ A DISCOUNT CODE!)

on November 3, 2015 in Nash-livin' with 1 comment by

First of all. I have a comment.

Down there in the pictures, I promise I’m not trying to make a modeling face. I was listening to my friend talking and that is my sympatheic listening face. Sure, of all the necklace centric pictures, it was the one I chose. But I just had to talk about it first since I am SURE it is the first thing my friends are going to give me a hard time about here. 🙂

 

Now on to the real star of the show-

fashionABLE’s new fall products!!

 

Y’all.

So I’m over at the fashionABLE blog today talking about my fall favorites- you can see them below. If we’ve been friends for any amount of time, none of my answers will surprise you. Boiled peanuts. Glitter nail polish. Etc.

And two of those fall faves are new fashionABLE products.

This Tirhas Saddlebag?!? It’s my everything. It’s a perfect size, holds all the items an Annie needs for a day but doesn’t give me space to like, lug my iPad and a book and 44 other things I would attempt to include when I carry a HUGE purse, like the Tadesse Bucket Bag (which I do not have because seriously. I carry too much stuff as it is). But this Tirhas bag is the perfect fall/winter purse.

And the Double Layer Rosary Necklace is so dainty and beautiful. And have y’all seen that you can customize your fashionABLE jewelry now? Right. So. That just wins for best Christmas gift you can give anyone.

And because the fashionABLE people LOVE my people…

Discount Code Time!

Until Friday, if you spend $40 or more anywhere on the site, you can get 20% off using the code ANNIEFAVES. Scarves. Bags. Jewelry. Wallet. Please please think Christmas gifts and birthdays and anything you want for yourself because this is such a massively generous coupon code!

So get your shopping on, folks!

FallFaves15_06Annie

What 35 means to me.

on July 7, 2015 in Nash-livin', PCOS with 53 comments by

What 35 Means To Me

Yesterday, I went to Starbucks and got my free drink. It was a total treat. I went for venti soy chai instead of grande, because nothing says HAPPY BIRTHDAY like a massive Starbucks drink that costs me zero dollars.

The sweet guy at the drive-thru window said, “it’s your birthday tomorrow? I’m guessing you’ll be 20?” with a flirty little grin on his face.

“That’s cute,” I said, with an equally flirty grin on my face because WHY NOT. “35 actually,” I told him, “and I’m pretty excited about it.”

And I am. I really am.

To be clear, this is absolutely NOT the life I thought I’d have at 35. I thought I’d be a wife and a mom. I thought I’d be on my 12th year teaching school or staying home with my kids or working at a church. I thought I’d live in my hometown. I thought I’d be an expert at cooking dinner every night and a professional at laundry. I thought there would be planned vacations with his family and “what school should the kiddos attend?” conversations.

And I still want all of that.

But the life I have at 35? The one that looks nothing like the life I thought I’d have?

I WANT IT. I LOVE IT.

I can’t believe I feel that way, honestly. But I do. Here’s why.

  • I have a great family.
  • I have friends that I’ve known for over 20 years that still enjoy my company.
  • I have friends from Nashville, TN that feel like family.
  • I have friends in Edinburgh, Scotland that feel like family.
  • I have friends in Marietta, GA that feel like family.
  • I have some handsome single men floating around my life and one of them may decide to marry me someday. Or date me. Or buy me a venti soy chai. Whatever.
  • There are lots of handsome single men on this planet that I do not know. That’s good to remember, you know, when you feel like you know everyone.
  • I have a job that challenges me and makes me feel alive and allows me to make friends in cities across America.
  • I get to work with a team of amazing people who believe in the ministry God has called me to do.
  • I have sweet online friends (LIKE YOU!) who have been on this journey with me for years and years.
  • I love where I live. I totally love this town. Nashville has been a gift to me from the day I moved here, almost SEVEN years ago.
  • And I love this little house where I live that we call Broke Lamp Manor.
  • I am healthier mentally that I’ve ever been before thanks to lots of prayer and two years of counseling.
  • My body and my heart and my mind are on the same team and it makes me love my body more than I ever have. I’m getting healthier every day and I’m so so happy about it.
  • I have PCOS and 35 is the year when doctors start using the term “high risk pregnancy,” but I have a God that doesn’t get stressed about stats. His timing is the right timing. He knows.
  • I love my church in Nashville and I love my home church in Marietta.
  • In the last six months, God has been more real and present and vocal in my life than ever before and I could just weep with gratefulness.
  • I did a bellyflop in front of hundreds of people last week because at 35, I really love being Annie. Which, as most of you know, hasn’t always been the case. So this loving who I am thing is really rad.

So here’s what 35 means to me.

It means all day today, I will celebrate the life I have. Not the one I’m missing out on or the one I’m waiting for, but the one I have. It means I wouldn’t trade what I do have for what I wished for. And I will celebrate how God made me. Not who I wish I was or the things I would change, but who I am. Today.

I want my life. It isn’t perfect by any means- there is hard and pain and disappointment and etc. But I’m excited to have MY life, the ups and the downs. I’m grateful for how God created me different from any other person and gave me a life that is so much weirder and better than I could have known to dream up.

I have hopes and plans and unanswered prayers that we may see come to life this year… but until then?

We celebrate.

Thank you, each of you, for being a part of what makes my life so joyful. I am so grateful.

And thanks to God, who has always been abundantly loving and extremely kind to me.

Here’s to 35- the best year yet. <3

Psalm 118:24 (MSG)

This is the very day God acted—

let’s celebrate and be festive! 

 

————–

Why I’m glad your daughter is in our b.fab class.

on May 13, 2015 in Nash-livin', PCOS with 9 comments by

BFab

Every week, I go to an amazingly fun workout class called b.fab.fitness.

The local community center’s gymnasium fills up with women of all kinds and for an hour, we dance and shake and squat and have really the best time exercising that you could ever imagine.

Like, I love it. There’s not a lot of exercise that I LOVE. There’s some that I like, and a few I tolerate, a few I avoid (I’m looking at you, spin class), but b.fab? I LOVE IT.

During b.fab, around the edges of the gym, sitting on the floor, are kiddos. Some play on phones, some sing along, some do their homework. And a few of the little gals? They get up and do all the moves right along with us.

And I am so glad.

I am glad because I love the idea that these girls are getting to be in a room full of women having a really great time while also getting a pretty legit workout. They don’t know me, but they see me smiling and sweating at the same time and my heart hopes it speaks to them about what exercise is supposed to be.

I am glad because these mamas are modeling for their gals that exercise is a priority and a fun way to spend an hour.

I am glad because these mamas are modeling for ME how to teach my future daughter about exercise.

I am glad because I watch as the mamas give high-fives to their daughters after they’ve finished a particularly challenging song and are headed to grab a drink of water and I think there is something really beautiful about sharing that moment with your mom.

I am glad because dang those girls got moves! Maybe it is because they are closer to the ground and have a lower center of gravity or because they don’t have the body of a 34 year old (ahem), but I am constantly impressed at how good the little gals are at every dance.

I am glad because whether those mamas realize it or not, they are teaching their daughters (and ME!) that health matters and that exercise is fun.

I am glad because I get to see families make healthy choices together. It’s one of the major tenets I want to build into my family unit when I make one someday- exercise isn’t a must-do, it’s a wanna-do that we choose-to-do because that’s who we wanna-be.

I think about it every week and think that that’s the kind of mama I want to be.

So I’m really glad those girls are in b.fab.fitness with their moms because it has made me want to be a better and healthier mom.

. . . . .

(By the way, here’s a video of one of my favorite songs we do. Don’t look too hard- I promise you times a million that I was not there the night they filmed this, so you won’t find me in the crowd… but I do know every last move to this one.)

. . . . .

ACM Awards Prep thanks to Mary Kay®!

on March 30, 2015 in Gal Stuff, Nash-livin' with 58 comments by

#ACMAwards Looks by Mary Kay

You guys know I have special place in my heart for award shows, particularly when it involves country music. Remember I got to go to the Grammys with my friend Hillary in 2010? And remember when I got to go to the CMA Awards in 2014? Yeah. I love award shows. I blame the sparkle. And the music. And watching my friends win trophies. Fine, all of it. I LOVE IT ALL.

So when Mary Kay® offered for me to try three of the looks they are featuring this year for the Academy of Country Music Awards (because they are the beauty sponsor… I want to have a beauty sponsor…), I was like OH HECK YES I WANNA.

No, I’m not actually going to the ACM Awards. At least, that’s not in the plans today. And neither are my friends Nichole and Amanda, who each tried a look as well. But on a Sunday afternoon, we dressed our faces up like we were about to be on the red carpet! I set up a station at my dining room table with the makeup samples, separated by look, and some technology so we could watch the super helpful how-to videos for each look.

ACM Awards Prep

We each had our own little area to watch and learn and apply the makeup. Here were all the pieces of my look. And then we took “before” pictures and got going with our unique looks!

All American Girl Supplies by Mary Kay

. . . . .

I’ll start with moi. I picked the All-American Girl look, which has nothing to do with the dolls or I’d have braids and round glasses (shout out to my girl Molly!).

All American Girl Look from Mary Kay

Y’all. No kidding. I am IN LOVE with this look. The application was simple and the color palette was my favorite. Soft pinks with brown eyeliner and killer mascara. Totally love it. I’m definitely going to keep doing this look in my real life. And the lip gloss? SO SPARKLY. Two people I know saw me this night and stopped me to ask what I had done different! No joke!

Amanda went for the Boho Beauty look, and that she is, my friends. That she is.

Boho Beauty Look by Mary Kay

There is a lot of eye product for this one, which threw Amanda off for a minute. But the longer the evening went on, the more she talked about how much she loved it. Again, the lip color is SPOT ON and I’m only a tiny bit offended that she packed up all the Boho Beauty makeup samples and made out like a bandit. So yes, she loved the look enough to steal from me.

Nichole was the last to arrive, so we gave her Queen of Country because of her showing up late like a famous person behavior.

Queen of Country Look by Mary Kay

Y’all. The eyes! Am I right? So so gorgeous. She kept saying, “I never wear eye makeup this dark, but I kinda love it.” We did too. The eyeliner had a lot of steps, but for a night out? Totally worth the extra few minutes. When you are the Queen of Country, you’ve got that kind of time.

All three looks are pretty easy to figure out and the makeup, as you know if you know Mary Kay®, isn’t heavy or cakey, just light and beautiful. I hope my bottle of mascara lasts forever, I love it that much.

I’m also seriously considering live-tweeting the ACM Awards on April 19th like I did the Oscars. Does that make you happy or ruin your life? I can’t tell how my friends feel about it. 

. . . . .

Check out the tutorials of all three country music-inspired makeup looks and let me know which one you like the best. Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a Mary Kay® prize pack of your own!

Brought to you by Mary Kay. All opinions are my own.

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I just called to say I Love You.

on March 26, 2015 in Nash-livin', Ze Bloggy Goodness with 8 comments by

That is legitimately my favorite song on the planet. It makes me tear up every time I hear it. I don’t really know why, but it does.

It is not, however, my karaoke song of choice. That is “Islands in the Stream.” Obviously. Because Dolly Parton has a sweet place in my heart. Have I ever told you the story of being in a carseat (so maybe I was three or four?) and singing “Workin’ 9 to 5” outloud while listening to it in my headphones. I didn’t realize everyone couldn’t hear it, so I was just belting it.

Anyways. All that to say.

I just called to say I Love You is my way of saying I AM HERE AND YOU ARE THERE AND I AM SO SORRY I HAVEN’T BLOGGED THIS WEEK.

About twice a year, I get a two week stretch that is so stressful to me and my calendar is so jam packed that it kinda makes me feel like passing out and eating all the chocolate in the world and staying in my bed all at the same time. But I don’t get to do any of that, I just get to keep writing and attempting to meet deadlines and traveling and speaking and WORKING ON MY NEXT BOOK SQUEAL! and making videos and the like.

So.

I’m in the smack middle of that.

(And yes. Soon I will tell you about the next book because I’m gonna need your help and want your input.)

I have 30 minutes free this afternoon, so I thought I’d catch up with you a bit, in bullet form fashion.

–> I’m addicted to this Harney & Sons Paris Tea right now. Like. ADDICTED.

–> Like many of you, I have been enjoying watching an episode or six of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Tina Fey’s comedy writing style is so so funny to me, and this series is fascinating and hilarious. It’s relatively clean, which I appreciate, and I laugh out loud every episode at some point. It is 30Rock-esque, if you enjoyed that. There is a great article by Elizabeth Esther on the show. I’d highly suggest reading it.

–> Y’all. I have had TWO pretty major allergic reactions to milk in the last week. For starters, a soup I was given, that I was PROMISED was dairy-free, was actually cream-based. (Which is why I kept saying, “Are y’all sure this is dairy free? It’s white. Wow. Amazing. Delicious!”) Yes, the restaurant apologized and yes I got a gift card and yes I survived, so huzzah. But then the second one is all on me because I used WHEY protein powder in a smoothie. Whey? Like curds and whey? Like milk? Yes, Annie. Milk. My entire head gets itchy and I get a migraine and it’s horrible. So. There’s that.

–> I cannot quit the Bethel Church podcasts. If you are looking for a good sermon to add to your weekly commute or walk around the neighborhood, I’d suggest this.

–> I’ve always been a soccer fan. You probably know that. But I’ve finally gotten on board with an EPL team this season and man do I love Liverpool FC. I have friends trying to get me to switch for next season, but for now? GO REDS.

So there’s a quick Annie update.

How are you?

. . . . .

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