Speak Love

20130821_AnnieDowns_speaklove.jpg

Last year, when the Girls of Grace tour asked me to be a speaker, they asked if I would be able to talk about the power of words.

Um. Yes.

I’m not sure science has proven this true, but I think I have said more words in my thirty-three years than any other person ever. (Right, like I said, no proof. I’m just guessing.) And Proverbs 10:19 likes to remind me often that people who talk a lot seem to sin a lot too.

Hmph. Rude.

But true.

So I knew I could handle getting up in front of a few thousand teenagers across the country and pleading with them to do it better than I have, to use their words well, not waste them or destroy with them, but to build with them.

Y’all. It was a dream come true.

But after two events, in the fall of 2012, I began to feel a little stir on my insides: God wanted more on this topic. We were on a mission, me and God, and I knew it. A mission to teach young women how to use their words.

So I wrote a 30-day devotional and gave it away at Girls of Grace events.

You know what I thought? I thought that was God’s big dream. I thought that was the end of the story.

A few weeks later at our event in Grand Rapids, one of my Zondervan team members who was instrumental in getting Perfectly Unique on book shelves stopped me after my talk on words.

“That’s your next book, Annie.”

What. Huh. First of all, I GET a next book? The opportunity blew my mind. And secondly, WORDS? Wait. I thought God’s story was done with the devotional. Apparently not.

A year later? Speak Love.

And it feels bigger than a book or a devotional or a talk on a stage.

It’s time to change our culture and the way women use words.

I know. It seems big to say, “LET’S CHANGE OUR ENTIRE CULTURE!” but if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that God’s dreams don’t stop growing and it is way more fun to jump on board than to think the story is done.

And when it comes to talking about how we use our words? We can’t do it enough.

You probably grew up knowing a mean girl. I did too, and you probably have been hurt by words. I have too. But you know what else? I bet you have hurt people with your words.

I have too.

But I’m ready to lead the charge to see that change. Will you join with me? Will you use your words to speak life, not death (Proverbs 12:18)? 

What does that look like? It looks like holding your tongue when you want to unleash venom. It means sharing stories of hope and words of encouragement. It means writing and singing and calling and answering.

Speak Love released this week and it is with a bowed and humbled heart that I begin this next chapter of whatever God is writing. I would say that this book coming out is the end of the story, but I’ve learned better that to assume that again. :)  

How have words affected you?

by Annie Downs

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  1. 1

    Annie,
    First, congratulations on your collaboration with God – your book going into print! “Words” are my love language. Nothing speaks more encouragement and love to me than words. Words, however, also have the power to cut me to the core…and yes that has happened many times. It has made me realize just how powerful my words are. That’s why I am especially careful to choose them lovingly and prayerfully. I, too, have been blessed with more words than I know what to do with, but with God’s enabling, I am learning when to speak and when to hold my tongue. How wonderful that you are addressing young girls at a very impressionable time and are helping them learn this principle.
    Blessings,
    Bev

  2. 3
    Pamela Herman says:

    I have chills for you. Words mean so much to me. And I am committed to using mine well. They were given by God, as was my tongue. I have to use His wisdom with them. Through Him, it will all come together. Thank you for the reminder of how He works with dreams – even with one’s you weren’t even realizing you were dreaming yet. He has a way of guiding and loving us into our next chapter. And PRAISE GOD for that. Praying for spacious blessings in your life. May He continue to surprise you with His glory and how you can work for Him.

  3. 5

    What a wonderful project! So excited to see what God has planned for you next!

    Words are our lives. My 17yo daughter with moderate cerebral palsy cannot speak (has normal hearing) and uses sign language to communicate. When we must focus so clearly on our thought/words to turn them into signs, they definitely “up” the level of importance and focus.

    As a mother of a special needs child, words have both comforted and hurt me. Sometimes the simplest words have the most power.

  4. 7

    For sure, words have greatly affected my life and have probably contributed…for good and not so good…to the person I am today.

    But nothing really compares to how words FROM OTHERS have affected me…when they were said TO or ABOUT my children.

    Our oldest son has Down Syndrome and we love him to the moon and back. I realize I was probably a little over-sensitive, but in our home, I did not allow our children to use words that would attack their brother or sister’s character or physical traits or abilities. So, the “S” words (we had two) were “stupid” or “shut-up.” And the “D” word was “dumb.” We never, EVER said the “R” word. I just wanted our home to be a place where we built each other up and celebrated the milestones of each of our 4 children..

    Joshua is 27 years old now, but one day when he was very young, he came home very sad from school and told me he had a “messed up brain.” I seriously almost threw up. I asked him why he said that, and, after much coaxing, he told me that some kids at school had told him he had a messed up brain. And my heart broke for him.

    So, I hugged him for as long and as hard as I could…and told him how much we all loved him and how precious he was…and after I got him settled down,I went into my bedroom and cried my eyes out.

    You certainly don’t have to have special needs for words to hurt, but because of experiences like this one, I try my best to build up instead of tear down.

    I am looking forward to reading your book.

    • 8

      Marty, thank you for your comment. I can’t imagine what it feels like to watch words hurt your children. I’m praying that Joshua remembers the kind words y’all have spoken over him way more than he remembers the hurtful ones.

  5. 9

    I am excited about your book! Our church is offering a women’s retreat this year entitled “Messages” with Proverbs 18:21 as our theme verse. Hawk Nelson’s song, “Words” continually runs through my mind as I plan to lead this. Your post brought to mind many ways I hurt others in my younger days and honestly, continue to with my careless words today. Adding your book to my list of must reads!

  6. 11

    Words have shamed me…so much so that I nearly ended it all….but, encouraging words have saved my life. Congrats on your book and thank you for this. Shame is so prevalent in our culture and that needs to change, and I think speaking love can be the beginning of that change.

    • 12

      Christina, I think you are so right. We can fight shame in our lives AND in the lives of others by speaking TRUTH over the lies. Praying for you today.

  7. 13
    Linda Hone says:

    Reading your post reminded me of a children’s message the Associate Pastor shared one Sunday.
    He asked the children what happens when you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, and if you can put it back in there. Of course you cannot. Then he shared that its the same way with words. Once you say something, there is no way you can take them back. You can be sorry, apologize, wish you’d never said them, but the impact of what you said – good or bad – will always be there.
    That was over 50 years ago! (I was a teen at the time, sitting in the congregation).
    The message has stayed with me all these years, and I’ve shared it often. It’s helped me guard my words when I’m upset, and also to be generous with praise and encouragement.
    Words.. may we always use them to build up rather than tear down those who cross our path daily. I hope your book does well and brings you and others many blessings and insight.

  8. 15

    I recently came across http://www.moreloveletters.com and have been leaving them in many places. Words can be incredibly uplifting (or defeating). I am excited for you!

  9. 17

    My pre-purchased copy came yesterday.
    So thrilled! I had just seen the title and thought, “yes, this is exactly what I need.”
    Not your target audience; I am 47! But I started reading it aloud to my daughter while she soaked in a baking soda bath because of chicken pox and it hit the spot. Several spots, in the first pages! At first she thought I was reading it aloud to teach her, but when I told her how some things hit my heart and how this was for me, and it was better reading for me if I read aloud (hearing, sharing the experience) she turned compassionate and she was free to tell me where things touched her too.
    Thanks Annie.
    Words. I think of myself as loving and kind so I’m always super discouraged when something nasty comes out of my mouth!
    My current year is intense: the daughter is turning 13, the grandpa with Parkinson’s (turning 83) is never the same two days in a row, the professor husband is up for tenure review, I’m teaching a Middle School English class, and we are church planting!
    I need Speak Love!
    It came just in time!
    Praising God for you, Annie.

    • 18

      That’s such a cool story, Beth! Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you and your daughter have started the book! You’re right… sounds like it fits right with what God is doing in your lives!! So awesome.

  10. 19

    Annie,

    Thank you for this. I have not heard your talk, but as a similarly well-intentioned yet overly vociferous woman, I know where you’re coming from.

    I have a three year old son and eight month old twins (one boy, one girl). For the past three years my husband has been gently reminding me that negative self-talk should (at the very least) not be expressed in front of the kids… but it wasn’t until our daughter was born and I began dreading her walking the same old paths of low self-esteem that his point really hit home.

    Now I speak words of strength to her daily. My girlfriends and I are all working on our self-talk and what it means to speak to daughters in a way the helps them value what it TRULY valuable about them…. strength, kindness, gentleness, discernment.

    HD Fuller
    Thewordspoken.org

  11. 21

    Words! They have power to hurt or heal. The Lord started teaching me about the importance of words back in 1998. He started with my marriage. When to speak, and when by the grace of God to hush (actually meaning to ignore).

    I started seeing all the promises in His Word. Wow! For every occasion! So, why did I talk as tho His promises didn’t exist? I had to start watching my mouth. And to this day it’s a 24/7 “watch.”

    When I’d want to say, “I can’t,” –His Word says I can do all things through Him. When I’d want to say, “I’m all alone in this,”–His Word says I will never leave nor forsake you.

    I had to renew my mind to what He says, not just speak as if His promises were written in invisible ink or were fables.

    It was a life changer!

  12. 23

    Oh, Annie “Congratulations” and “Thank you”. This could be a book, but those are all the words needed right now. Praise God for He is good.

  13. 25
    Sarah Schulz says:

    Annie, this is wonderful. I’ve been a listener for a very long time, trying to avoid sin by not speaking (by not getting in the way of anyone else), so in a lot of ways I am coming from the exact opposite direction.

    But I’ve seen words hurt so many people, and in my own journey to be open and vulnerable, I’ve noticed how strong the temptation is to seize power in a moment, in a conversation, by using my words forcefully, convincingly, even roughly. Thank you so much for writing about speaking love instead! I feel strongly that God is going to use your words to heal and reveal many women’s hearts.

  14. 27

    I was a victim of a mean girl when I was in junior high school. I never had any acne problems, and never wore makeup. One day she passed me and asked in a cheerful manner, “What do you do for your complexion?”. I smiled happily and said, “Nothing.”. She and the group of girls she was with laughed, and she said, “Well, you should.”. That day I began thinking something must be wrong with me, and became self-critical and insecure.
    Years later, after I started using my high school graduation picture on Facebook, as well as posting my engagement and wedding pictures, random people started telling me how attractive I was. By then I was in my mid-40s and had four children and a grandchild. I regretted all those years of self-doubt. Now at age 77 it doesn’t matter any more, and I look to God only for approval, and He is more than enough. I was careful to teach my two sons and two daughters to always be kind and never fall into that trap.

    • 28

      Gerrie, I am so sorry that girl’s comments lived with you for so long, but praise God for how He redeemed your story and continues to! Thank you for sharing!

  15. 29

    Words hurt. Especially when coming from family. I don’t even want to know all the times I have done it myself, intentional or not. We ALL need God’s forgiveness.

  16. 31

    Yay!!!!!!!! New book by Annie Downs!!!!! Hurray!!!!! I’d share about how my words have hurt/helped/been indifferent and how others’ words have hurt/helped/been indifferent, but I’m WAY too excited about your book to talk about anything else. Suffice it to say that my journey of words has IMPROVED the closer I’ve walked with Him. And my ways of teaching my children to use their words has IMPROVED the closer we have all walked with Him. Can’t wait to share your lessons and insights with everyone. Yippee!!!

  17. 33

    I am too sensitive sometimes and allow words to hurt me much too deeply or jump to the wrong conclusion about something that was said. But, because I am that way, I try hard to be careful with my words with others.

    I love that you wrote this 30 day devotional and initially gave it away and now it is a book. The principle of doing what you love for free and look what God did with it!

    Congratulations on your SECOND book!

  18. 35
    Joanne Peterson says:

    I see and hear what the other women are commenting about, and feeling. I agree. I would like to point out sometimes what is not said is just as hurtful as the words we speak. Sometimes, when we feel a nudge to speak something to encourage, or love on someone and we don’t take that opportunity, they can be left feeling very alone and hurt that seemingly no one cares. Words are extremely important.

    Blessings,

    Joanne

  19. 37

    Hurray for Annie–hurray for SPEAK LOVE! What an inspired topic! I taught fourth grade for a number of years. Even at nine and ten years old, girls can be very hurtful with their words. May your book reach many young women and begin a revolution of kindness and encouragement. The ripple effect could be huge! God bless you, Annie, and your NEXT book!

    • 38

      Thank you, Nancy!! I used to teach 4th grade as well so I know EXACTLY what you mean. Those classroom memories (2 yrs of 5th grade, 3 yrs of 4th grade) probably inspired more of this book than I even realize!

  20. 39

    I enjoyed reading Perfectly Unique. I used it for a conference I spoke at on the topic of You Are Not a Mistake. This book sounds great, too!

  21. 41
    Courtney L. says:

    I think every girl should read this! I know I can’t wait to! :)

  22. 43

    Read (in)courage almost every day and just ordered your book for my daughter.
    She is 16 and just starting to begin her journey.

  23. 45

    What a wonderful journey! Thanks for sharing it here. By nature, I am a planner. I am trying to let that go, and only plan as far ahead as He shows me. It’s hard. But worth it. Keep following where He leads, you’ll never go wrong!

  24. 46

    Just had the words talk with ,my 10 year old yesterday! Grabbed the book to read together.

  25. 47
    Beth Williams says:

    What an exciting time for you. Congratulations on your new book! You are an inspiration to young people everywhere!!! :)

    I am doing a women’s Bible study “The Words of a Woman”. Boy has it convicted me to watch not only what I say, but how & when I say it@! James 3:1-10 talks about taming the tongue–using it for good & not spewing out evil.

    Loved this post & congrats again! You Go Girl!!!

  26. 48

    I have never thought to mush about my words until lately. John and I are kind of new christens. The 1st thing I did after having Christ enter my heart was find any and all bible study’s and jump in right where I was. I have always been very social but John is not. So I would go and hear the word and have it all around me, then I would go home and share it with John. I did not know if it was helping him or not. But just the other day we were at our small group and the pastor asked the group if they could name a person who had helped them in their walk with God. My husband, John, spoke right up and said that with all the study(out load) and sharing every thing that I got from my bible study’s has be a great help in getting him to open up to God no mater what.
    I now know that although I do talk to much the holy spirit uses a lot of what I say to get through to other people. I also teach 3rd graders Sunday school and I run a weekly woman’s group (it is the Lord not me). I am so blessed that God is using me in a way that I some times get to see the fruit. Thank You, Debby Clover

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