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.
. . . . .
. . . . .
. . . . .
(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.)
. . . . .
With each new book that releases, I get to have new headshots taken. I think new headshots are fun. WAY FUN.
Here is my favorite–
It looks like me, but a really-fancy-done-up version of me.
As these collection of pictures make their way around the internet and magazines and et cetera over the next few months, it’s important to me that you know what it takes to get this kind of picture.
I stand on a lot of stages in front of a lot of girls who hear over and over again about pictures getting photoshopped and such, but there’s so much that goes on before the picture even gets snapped- and we compare ourselves to this finished pictures.
So I want to show you what this day looked like from start to finish- so that we all (myself included) remember that it takes a village to create these kind of beautiful pieces.
And it was a really really fun day and I’m so happy with the final result.
. . . . .
I’m so honored that Micah Kandros would take this gig photographing me. If you’ve read Perfectly Unique, you know my story and my issues, so it’s important to me on days like this to have someone on the other side of the camera that is a good friend and who loves me no matter what.
And then I bring in a makeup and hair person that does all the magic before Micah even gets started with his magic skillz.
So here’s the first pic of the day- the way I show up when I wake up (with a spray tan and waxed eyebrows that were taken care of the previous day by the wonderful Tanastacia). And behind me is Kelley Kirker, hair and makeup extraordinaire. (No kidding, Nashville, when you need hair and makeup, this is your gal.) Look at all her tools. It takes a village, people.
And here’s a clean face Annie ready to get rolling. And scared face Kelley knowing the work she has ahead.
Then the girl got to work and MADE IT HAPPEN. There was shading and contouring and all sorts of movements that I did not know makeup could do. I was like, “whoaaaa, Kel. Whoa.” Because she’s good, y’all.
My outfits- clothes, shoes, and jewelry- are all, obviously, from Amber Lehman. She knows me, she dresses me, she makes me happy in outfits I wouldn’t have seen for myself.
And then Micah demonstrated how he wanted me to sit. Because that’s funny.
So I sat there. And did what he told me to- turning my head like this, crossing my legs like that, crossing my arms just so. Many times it felt super awkward and like I would look ridiculous, but Micah knew exactly what he was doing and knew exactly how to manipulate my posing for the best result possible.
Crazy, huh? That look on my face is like, “wait, you want me to do what?” And maybe a little, “this is weird to me.”
I love love love these pictures. We even did a few outside. (It was hot outside, btw, in early October. And even Intern Sarah got to assist on the shoot.)
So I sat on my friend’s driveway wall (is that a thing?) and had to do a weird lean forward and head turn for Micah….
but it turned out like this and I was all, “whoaaaaa… you’re a magician.”
And I own none of these clothes, by the way, except the belt and the flowery pants. The rest were borrowed. That jean jacket, honestly, did NOTHING for my body except in this one singular shot. So away it went.
We see pictures of movie stars and athletes and authors and anyone else who gets to spend money on hiring a professional village to create this kind of photo. I hired five professionals. FIVE PEOPLE spending an entire day to get, in the end, about six pictures that we will use.
I’m grateful for their talent and skills and the way the pictures turned out. But hopefully this is a good reminder to you, as it is to me, that professional photographs are the hard work of a lot of people.
Big thanks to Tanastacia, Amber, Kelley, Sarah, and Micah. <3
I’m writing another book.
Speak Love is finished and turned in and based on how long my editor has had it in her genius paws, I’m guessing there was A LOT TO BE DONE TO THE DOCUMENT. [I’m thankful. Great editors MAKE great books.] It will be out in September and I cannot wait for you to read it!
And now we are on to the next one. Which is really exciting, don’t get me wrong.
I can’t tell you much about it quite yet, but I can tell you what I’m feeling while I’m writing it.
And when I say “I’m writing another book,” I mean I keep opening a word document and watching the cursor blink.
This next book is deeply personal, deeply current, and requires deep amounts of courage and to be honest, I find myself lacking. So I’ve gotten lots of other work items checked off in the last ten days or so, but when it comes to actually getting book words on paper, it’s not happening. I always find something else to do.
Emails to answer.
Meetings to have.
Purses to clean out.
Naps to take.
And then I blink and another work day has come and gone and I’ve accomplished things, but not THE THING.
The thing of writing stories that have long been held in my heart.
The thing of exposing hurts that I would rather forget.
The thing of writing the book I’ve dreamed about for years.
The thing of composing this piece of art that feels so near to my heart that I worry about every dotted i and crossed t and sentence structure and flow.
The thing of writing a book that requires every bit of the courage from me that then I’m going to turn around and ask of the reader in their own life.
“BE BRAVE!” I am going to say. But first? I have to be brave.
Ahh… isn’t this just how God works? I have to learn the lesson before I can lead the lesson and I think it is only fair to tell you that I am a slow learner.
Sooo many bloggers write books. Sooo many authors have blogs. And you see us announce “another book is coming!” or “I’m signing a 44 book contract with Biggest Publisher In The World!” or “My book just got purchased by every woman in the state of Ohio!” and sometimes I wonder if non-authors think this life is full of awesomely fun announcements.
So here’s my announcement for you today:
I’m so scared to write this book that I am not writing at all.
Blogs. Articles. Emails. Journaling. Nothing.
Twitter I’ve still got under control. 🙂 But all other forms of writing have gone to nada. It’s all dried up by fear.
I emailed my editor last week and said, “I know I can’t talk about the book, but can I talk about this part? The part where I’m trying to write a book about courage but can’t find any for myself?”
She said yes.
And since that day last week, I’ve tried to write this blog post, but couldn’t even get IT out. Ridiculous.
But finally, here it is. And here’s the hoping that this breaks the dam and the water of words begin to flow with force again. Because here’s what I know: I will find the courage. I mean, I have to. I HAVE A DEADLINE. 🙂 And I’m asking God for it.
But I just wanted you to know that this is how it really is sometimes.
What’s it like to write a book? Sometimes it is too scary to start.
But if you think you’re the only one too scared to make art, or the only one who wastes time because of fear, you aren’t. Be encouraged. We are all scared.
But fear won’t win.
Today, I will write. And tomorrow. And the next day.
Because I want you to read this book.
I want to read this book.
I want to be brave.
I want you to be brave.
. . . . .
Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, I absolutely loved April Fool’s Day.
Our hometown newspaper always took April 1 to try to slide in ridiculous stories and funny tidbits. I clearly remember running downstairs on the morning of April 1 and seeing the paper open on the table and scanning every story to see if it was true or a total joke.[Oh Marietta Daily Journal, you are the best.]
When I was in the fifth grade, my classroom, and the classroom across the hall, decided to prank our teachers by switching rooms and putting our heads down to see if our teachers would notice. [Spoiler alert: they did.]
But April 1 has come to mean something totally different to me.
. . . . .
Last year, on April 1, I walked away from my day job at Mocha Club and began to try to be a full time writer and speaker.
I was so scared. Like whoa scared.
In December of 2011 when the conversation about leaving started, I was beyond scared. Like, too scared to quit. But my boss at Mocha Club asked me to be brave and on April 1, I had no choice.
There was no safety net. There was no lifesaver. The new guy wanted my desk and I had to get out.
So I jumped.
I jumped into a career I didn’t have training to do.
I jumped into the life of a small business over with no experience.
I jumped into a schedule of travel that neither me or my relationships were prepared for. AT ALL.
I jumped out of financial security.
I jumped into what God had for me, even though I hate falling.
For 365 days, I’ve been falling.
And while this last year has held some of the most challenging days of my entire life – example July 31 [I can’t really tell you all the details, I just think it seems less cliche and more legit if you know the worst date of my year], it has also held many of the best. I have had to make professional decisions that I never predicted and have cried over situations I couldn’t have known would come up.
Feeling left out socially and expressing that to my friends after being on the road for two weeks straight?
Having people I don’t know say ugly things about me on the internet?
Balancing my small group and college ministry with a busy travel schedule?
Some days, it has been too much and I have wanted to stay in bed. [I bet that has been true for you in the last year, too, hasn’t it?]
But on the other days? The really great days? The days where this life is every career dream I’ve wanted coming true?
Yeah. It’s been awesome. I am so so so grateful that God has done this for me and been my Teacher and Cheerleader and Safe Place To Land every step of the way.
. . . . .
In all of it, here is what I have learned:
God dreams bigger than we do. God can be trusted. God is doing something on Earth and if we want, we can be a part of it. I pray that every day- I pray that God would close the wrong doors and open the right ones, and I pray that He would show me what He is already doing here and let me get in on it.
Year one is down. My freshman year of this career is over, and probably so is the honeymoon. Though I will tell y’all, on the average day, it pretty much feels like I’m on vacation. I don’t feel like I have gone to “work” in a really long time.
Year two begins today. Sophomores are comfortable and growing and learning and confident. That’s who I hope to be this year- encouraging other writers, growing in my own writing, continuing to resource youth leaders and youth groups, and walking confidently in the direction of my dreams.
Here’s to being a sophomore. 🙂
. . . . .
What do you see God doing around you that you want to be a part of?
A few months ago, I got an email from Bianca Olthoff inviting me to Florida in January to sit, for one day, with twenty women leaders under the wisdom of Christine Caine and Joyce Meyer.
Yes. THIS Christine Caine.
Yes. THAT Joyce Meyer.
Trust me. I was sure she had the wrong email. I was like, “Did you mean ANN Voskamp? I know our email addresses are close to each other….” But no. For some crazy reason, they meant me.
I jumped at the chance. As my career continues to grow, I could think of no two women I’d rather learn from and model after than Chris and Joyce. [Except Beth Moore. Obvi.]
The twenty women and I sat in a hotel conference room around a U-shaped table as Chris and Joyce sat in front of us and just discussed what it is like to be a female leader and in ministry and how to be a wise human.
It looked like this from Bianca’s point of view. It looked like this from Jennie Allen’s point of view– and I was sitting beside Jennie. I wish I could show you my view, but my computer has eaten all those pictures. Here’s the only one I can find- because it was in my text messages to my parents being like, “LOOK AT ME EATING LUNCH WITH JOYCE MEYER, Y’ALL!”
[I look that serious about once a fortnight. You would too if you were listening to Joyce Meyer. AT YOUR LUNCH TABLE.]
Bianca wrote a beautiful post recapping what she learned, but I wanted to share with y’all my biggest takeaways from those eight hours listening to Joyce Meyer. But I must be honest, I have SIXTEEN pages of notes that all look like this, so I am still processing through what I learned.
So here are some great takeaways that I think any of us can apply to our lives as women and women in ministry. These are thoughts and quotes from Joyce and Chris.
And y’all? I slimmed down my notes A TON. It was such a rich and fulfilling day. I learned things from those women, and the others in the room with us, that have changed how I live and do my job and treat ministry. I read through my LOTS AND LOTS of notes about once a week, including the personal things we discussed that Joyce and especially Chris really spoke into.
Also, while we were there, Bianca was at work getting folks to record podcasts for Christine. Jennie and I did one together about being in ministry as a single woman and as a married woman. I laugh too loud, repeatedly, but no one is surprised about that. If nothing else, you get twenty minutes of the two of us and Jennie really says some super wise stuff and I attempt to do the same.
I am so deeply grateful to Bianca and Chris for inviting me and to Joyce for her words. Also, we had an incredible dinner conversation that night that has forever changed how I view women in ministry and to those eight women around that table- including Jennie and Chris, I say thanks.
I have this memory from sometime in the late 2000s.
Melanie, Sophie, and I were riding in a car in Charlotte, NC looking for a place to have some queso dip and Melanie was talking about wanting to write a book. [This is also the same trip where Sophie introduced me to boo-berry biscuits from Bojangles and my word those things are amazing.] Melanie talked about the title of her book and the idea and it was really really good.
She and I had dreams that day that honestly, neither of us were sure would ever become reality. I remember we both felt almost sick with hope. Sophie, on the other hand, swore she’d never write a book and wished us both the best of luck in our endeavors.
So last week, when my copy of Sparkly Green Earrings arrived in the mail, I just teared up. Not only had Mel survived the publishing process, I don’t think she’d mind me telling you that she also survived a few low days on the path to publishing that led to many question marks. [If you ever plan to write a book, prepare yourself for lows. They are real.] But she persevered and God opened doors and I am so glad.
Over the last few days, I’ve read this book and it is some of the most heartwarming, honest, and beautifully sculpted prose about motherhood I’ve read in a long time. It is funny and sad and real and encouraging and all these descriptors that you would want in a weekend read that you just can’t put down but you don’t have to because it is Saturday.
Know what I mean?
Check out the video trailer… it explains the book better than I. Also, you get to hear Mel’s sweet voice and that just about makes me get on a plane to visit her immediately.
RIGHT? So sweet, huh?
So may I politely suggest that you grab up your own copy today or…..
YOU CAN WIN ONE!
Melanie and her publisher Tyndale were all, “AnnieBlogs? Yeah, we’ll let AnnieBlogs give a copy away. She has good people. People who like to read.”[That’s you.]
All you have to do is leave a comment telling me why you want to read this book! Easy cheesy! [Aww, cheese. I miss you.] I will use the most random of number generators to pick a winner on Sunday night, BEFORE Downton Abbey. Obviously. Because I have to focus. You understand.
On a side note, to Melanie- I could not be more proud of you, friend. What you have written in this book is life-giving and the world is a better and brighter place because this book exists in homes, on bookshelves, and flying out of Amazon’s warehouses.[Oh, and Sophie? Never writing a book? Yeah right. 🙂 ]
So comment away, you guys! And go get Sparkly Green Earrings for yourself and a few friends.
Sometimes God gives you this glimpse into who you want to be.
Do you know what I mean?
Maybe you’ve been pregnant and watched kids on a playground and it took your breath away because you knew that was your future 0r maybe you’ve wanted to be an actress and watching someone accept an Oscar make something inside of you catch fire.
It’s like you see someone and you think, “I see what she/he is doing and I know deep in my knower that is who I want to be.”
Yesterday afternoon, I watched Louie Giglio’s opening session. As it came to an end, he brought his lifelong best friend up on stage, Andy Stanley.
Then they begin to discuss an influential youth leader in their lives- the impact that leader had, how that leader had given them opportunities and put up with them when they were crazy teen dudes. You could hear the love in Louie’s voice and he even said that he and Andy loved this leader so much that they may cry.
I waited to see the guy they were talking about, wondering who he was, would I recognize him from Atlanta, so on and so forth.
And then? It was a woman.
And I immediately thought of this picture from last summer.
I have this dream in my life that I don’t ever really talk about very much, but I’ve always wanted sons. I really want sons. Like really really. I have always dreamed about being part of raising boys into Godly men. I mean, it’s one of those deep-in-my-heart dreams. Until I get married and have kids, this is the next best thing- investing in the young men that God places in the ministries where I volunteer. Even once I do have kids, this right here? These boys will always have a place in my heart.
So I cried [shocking no one] when I watched the Passion livestream because I saw my future. If I do my job now, THAT is my future.
You know this if you volunteer with kids, youth, or college- but you are just constantly planting seeds. Planting planting planting. And seed bears fruit, even if we never see it. But yesterday, I watched Louie and Andy and the woman that loved them when they were teenagers, and there she stood, 83 years old, seeing the fruit.
I’m not pushing any vocation on my boys- I don’t know where they will be in fifty years – when I’m 83 – but I know this. I will stand between them in 2063, proud of how they have lived, how they have loved, and who they have become.
I’m so grateful for that glimpse yesterday of the kind of woman I want to be and what it will look like for my dream to come true.
. . . . .
Where are you planting seeds?
I’m a huge Waltons fan. I mean, I love that show so deeply. It’s a family thing- we were raised on it. It’s also an Appalachian thing- they are my people. So it is what I would deem a life-long love we’ve got going on, me and the Waltons.
Ask any of my friends. It’s my go-to show- the one I want to watch when I need a break, to relax, or if my heart needs to rest. I go to Walton’s Mountain.[You can make fun of me if you want. I don’t care. This is one of those things, like how much I dislike game nights, that I don’t waver on even if the peer pressure is extreme.] [Yes, I hate game nights. We’ll talk about it later.]
BACK TO WHAT IS IMPORTANT. THE WALTONS.
This week, my dear friend Kyle is at a cable network convention showing the world how rad INSP Network is [and it is]. I watch INSP Network, like when I’m working a puzzle, because they show the Waltons.
So Kyle instragrams this picture on Tuesday. Can you see the very first comment? It’s me, freaking out that Kyle is standing beside John-Boy Walton.
[You can click on the pic to enlarge it so you can see my comment.]
See, Kyle is a dear friend to me, as close to a big bro as I’ve ever had. So I’m freaking out because I’m literally one very tiny degree from John-Boy Walton.
And then, my phone buzzes.
It’s Kyle, texting me to say that he forgot how much I loved the Waltons and I said “yeah, so much” and then he sent me this picture.
AN AUTOGRAPH. TO ME.
At this point, on a freakout scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 5. Because that’s amazing.
So I text Kyle back, because I’m very grateful. And here’s our conversation. [I’m blue, he’s white, just in case an iPhone isn’t your jam.]
JOHN BOY WANTS TO TALK TO ME?!?! ON THE TELEPHONE?!?! HIS REAL VOICE IN REAL TIME INTO MY REAL EAR??!?
And now, on the freakout scale, I’m a 9. Losing control of my hands and my lungs.
I think, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I’ll act like an idiot. I can’t breathe. Oh heavens. Oh no oh no oh no….” But before I can text back, my phone is ringing.
MY. PHONE. IS. RINGING.
[And now, on the freakout scale, I’m a 26.]
Y’all. I have famous friends. I’m around famous people a lot in Nashville. I know they are human and just like us and blah blah blah. But nothing, no NOTHING, could have prepared me for this.
I. Freaked. Out.
When I answered the phone and it was John-Boy Walton, I freaked out like you [nor I] have ever seen me freak out.
I don’t remember a single thing we talked about.
I know I cried.
I know I talked over him.
I know I apologized for not being cool and collected like Nashville people are supposed to be.
And I know it was really him because, well, I’d know John-Boy’s voice anywhere and because Kyle snapped this picture.
That’s me on the other end of that phone. ME! Little ole AnnieBlogs. Who can believe it.
I talked to Richard Thomas, John-Boy Walton, on the phone for approximately 36 seconds. And there is photo proof.
I feel bad that I didn’t tell him how much my family has bonded over the show, how my Mom owns every season on DVD… well, maybe I did tell him? Who knows. But I got my family on a conference call as soon as John-Boy and I hung up [freaking.out.still.] and we all were in shock.
Currently freakout scale is about a 5 and I’ve hovered here for two days.
So there is the story of the time when I turned into a massive fangirl in the middle of a Monday afternoon.
. . . . .
Who is one living person that you are certain, if they called your phone, you would lose your marbles?
Ok, well, that’s not totally true. I mean, I work. I just don’t have what the world would call “a real job” anymore. [But welcome to Nashville where most of us don’t. I like it.]
Since August of 2008, Mocha Club has been a weekly part of my life. I started as a volunteer for a few months and then I got a tiny part time job there, calling members, for five hours a week. Five turned to ten turned to twenty and a year had passed before I knew it.
I love Mocha Club. I love what they are doing in Africa. I love the integrity of the people who work there. I love the innovative ways they are raising money and making a difference overseas.
In May 2010, I started a real part time job at Mocha Club as their Social Media and Communications Director. It was a much needed role but the boss Barrett and I kinda made up my job as we went. We would figure out new cool things to do using social media and then boom, that was my job.
It was fun. Really fun.
Meanwhile, for another 40ish hours a week, I was writing and blogging and speaking and etc. So it wasn’t like I was laying by the pool most of the week and only working 24 hours a week.[Well, I do like to lay by the pool in the summer. But, I mean, I write a lot too.]
When I moved to Scotland last fall, I kept my part time job and spent some hours every day online working and skyping with America. Namely, with the Mocha Club staff.
. . . . .
I came home from Scotland and didn’t know that Zondervan was on the horizon. But when that opportunity arose, and some other things started to shift in the atmosphere, Barrett and I realized that it was time for me to move along, little dawgie.
It was the perfect storm of what I needed + what Mocha Club needed + what I wanted + what I was too scared to do + Barrett pushing me out of the nest and making me fly.
So as of April 1, I am a Mocha Club artist, but not a staff member.
. . . . .
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, ANNIE??
Let’s do this in a list form.
1. When someone says “What do you do?” my answer is now “I am an author and a speaker.”
2. I work from home every day.
3. The blog and anniedowns.com are getting a major makeover that you will see really soon. Then when new people come along and say, “wow, this place is really pretty and fancy” you can say “she might have been born just plain white trash, but Fancy was her name” because you’ll have been here when this place wasn’t so fancy and you know how much I love Reba.
4. I need your help to make this full-time career work. I need you to tell your friends about my books when they come out, I need you to come hear me when I speak and bring your friends along, I need you to get me a speaking gig in your town, I need you to pray for me, and I need you to hug me when I get super scared that I am not going to make it full-time in this thing.[Because I do get scared. Really scared. But God is orchestrating all of this, so I throw the scared away and only hang onto the thread of faith. I tie a knot when I get to the end of my faith rope and I hang on.]
5. You know what it really means? It means we’re really doing this thang, y’all. And after four years of trying, I’m pretty giggly that it is finally happening.
. . . . .
Your questions / comments / etc about this new season of my full-time career are totally welcome. I just like keeping y’all up to date on what’s happening on this side of the screen.
Part 1. I haven’t forgotten that I have a blog. I promise.
Part 2. I haven’t forgotten the things you said to me on December 9, 2010.
I like to go back and read that blog post. I like to think about all the things that you want to do with your life. I like to wonder if you have made a move in the direction of that dream. Or I wonder if sometimes you remember what you wrote.
It was a simple question…
Just say it.
My dream is __________________.
. . . . .
And it is amazing to read the comments and see the ones that have come to pass. Like Jessica.
Yep. That’s the same girl you see in my picture taken in downtown Prague. She did it. She moved there.
. . . . .
And look at Jamie.
Now she has a booth at the Tennessee Antique Mall. Amazing, yeah?
And I just have to wonder about the other 85 commenters. Have they stepped towards that dream?
. . . . .
I had a birthday in 2006.
My family and I went to one of my favorite restaurants. I ordered grilled chicken and the most delicious macaroni and cheese that I’ve ever tasted. [The restaurant has since closed and I mourn that.]
My dad passed over a card. Inside was a small sum of money and a handwritten note. On the note he said, “I hope this helps you step towards your dream of being an author.”
And it did. And I did. And here we are.
. . . . .
Last week I went to my storage unit. [Yes, I’m still mildly homeless. No biggie.] I was looking for a dress that I never found. But I did find one thing I was really looking for. That note from my dad that is displayed in a simple black frame.
I’m stepping again. I’ll tell you all about it soon. But I’m taking some big steps towards some new dreams and I wanted to put that letter on my desk again. I wanted to remember that no matter what, Mama and Daddy took the first step for me. No step is scary when you have those kind of people stepping with you.
I’m making new dreams. Stepping into old dreams. And somehow, releasing those dreams that I have completed… though I don’t know what that looks like yet.
. . . . .
So I think of you.
Are you stepping towards the dream you were brave enough to confess a year ago?
Do you have new dreams that you are ready to proclaim to this corner of the internet?
Tell me new dreams.
Tell me that you haven’t forgotten.