This week on Living Inspired I’m excited to be chatting with Annie Downs. To listen to the interview: go here and click on the player in the upper right corner of the screen—TODAY at 3:00 pm Central.
This was always for them. The twenty or so teenage girls who would show up at my house on Monday nights.
They weren’t a quiet bunch, in general, but that never seems to be the crowd that is drawn to me [not surprising]. Many of the girls I had known for years. Growing up in the same church where I now lead a high school girls Bible study meant many of the same little children that I used to babysit or watch in the nursery were now sitting in a circle on my kitchen floor bemoaning the trials of high school.
It was our second school year of the She-Ra Bible study. The boys met simultaneously at another home; they were called He-Man, so it only seemed fitting that we would invoke the name of his feminine and muscular counterpart. At the beginning of each semester, the senior girls and I would grab lunch and then head to the local Christian bookstore to decide on a direction for the She-Ra Bible study.
This particular day, the four girls and I had soup in a bread bowl and then spent almost forty minutes perusing the young adult section of our local shop. Nothing really sparked their interest; nothing challenged them right in their spot of need.
We left empty-handed. I honestly didn’t know what we were going to do. I shrugged my shoulders as we headed back to my Toyota Camry and loaded up. Before the fourth door slammed, Ashley leaned forward and said, “You know what, Annie? Why don’t you just tell us some stories?”
And it clicked in my mind. Yep, I can do that. I’m a talker by nature, to be certain, and my love of writing had recently been set ablaze thanks to a Beth Moore Bible study in which I was participating. So I agreed and set to work.
A fourth-grade school teacher during the week, I began spending my Saturday mornings hunkered down at my kitchen table, resources spread out, coffee in a mug, and music playing through the house. Fairly early on, I felt God download an outline of sorts—body parts. Start at the head, work down to the feet, write stories about how to worship Him with what He had given us, all based on Romans 6.
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
See, many of my She-Ra girls were in a unique place in their faith walks. These girls were committed to Christ, serious about their faith, but unsure of how to grow deeper as a teenager. We didn’t need to talk about how to resist getting drunk; we needed to talk about how to resist gossip. I wasn’t worried about whether they would show up to church. I wanted them to show up to serve at the soup kitchen in town. It was about their hearts, not their actions. And since I had known many of them for years (and, even though they hate this fact, I had changed many of their diapers in years past), I knew them really well.
So I wrote for them. I wrote for the girls I knew. I wrote for the ones who showed up at my house, drank all my coffee, and sampled any food they found—the ones who trusted me with their hearts, their struggles, their teenage years.
I would photocopy each chapter, or “lesson” as it was at the time, at the school where I worked and have them three-hole punched and ready to go when the girls showed up. With their coffee, snack, highlighter, Bible, and stack of papers, they would spread out all over my house. While music played over the speakers, a hush would fall as the girls dove in. It was a dream come true for me—I bought a house specifically hoping and praying for moments like these—when every room was full of teenage girls digging into the Word and pursuing deeper relationship with Jesus.
So they would read. Highlight. Make notes. And then we would come back together and talk about it. Before I even had the twinkle in my eye about making these pages into a real book, I made notes as they talked. What they loved and wanted more of, I highlighted. What they didn’t understand, I made a mark to myself. What they hated, I crossed out. Mainly for my own knowledge and for future Bible study writings, I wanted to remember the things that teen girls didn’t connect with easily and the parts that moved them.
A few years later, those girls have gone off to college, gotten married, had babies, started churches with their husbands, moved to the mission field. And that little notebook of photocopied stories? It’s a real book—Perfectly Unique—that many more girls are reading than I could have ever imagined.
Every email from a reader of Perfectly Unique surprises me. The girl in Canada who is finally learning to love herself. The mom in New York who feels she is better equipped to mentor her daughter. The college student in Alabama who simply needed permission to dream about missions. They are dear to me—even the idea that God would take these writings out of my hand and launch it into the hands of many women who are knowing Him better because of it? It’s almost too much for my emotions to handle. I am so honored to be a part of this story, a part of each of the women’s stories who read Perfectly Unique and learn how to better love God, love themselves, and love others.
I am so glad that teen girls around the world are reading this book. “But in my heart, and in the hearts of those twenty gals from Marietta, Georgia, that are no longer in my living room but instead spread across the globe, serving God in their own ways. This was always for them.”
Annie Downs is an author and speaker who loves living in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. Her first book, Perfectly Unique, released in stores September 2012. Read more at annieblogs.com