“What am I doing with my life?”
Welcome to alumna Anjuli Paschall’s Instagram. The above question is a typical caption for the mother of five whose raw, thoughtful posts have created a space where her followers feel heard.
So much so that Paschall also became an author last year, publishing her first book, Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking, in which she explores connection and the struggles of motherhood from an honest perspective.
“In the old days, how would women connect?” said Paschall. “At some point early in the morning or evening, they’d meet at the well and talk. There’s such a richness in that and for me that well can also be Instagram.”
While most budding Instagram and social media influencers spend countless hours working to improve follower counts and engagement metrics, Paschall’s interpretation of the social media platform provides a refreshing take on a space that’s usually characterized in a negative light when it comes to mental health and overall wellness.
“The way I approach social media is different,” said Paschall. “I say, ‘I’m going to dig my well, stay here, and be faithful. Whoever is thirsty can come and stay as long as they want.’”
Paschall’s not aiming for huge success on the platform. She approaches social media like she approached writing Stay: sharing out of a place of vulnerability that’s naturally resonant.
“I was in this season of life after college and graduate school and getting married and having kids, doing all of the things I was supposed to be doing but feeling really disconnected,” said Paschall. “So I started writing about it. I said, ‘I’m just going to write until I have nothing else to say.’”
After about a year of steady journaling, Paschall had 200 pages of material sitting on her desk.
“I printed it out on computer paper,” she said. “And then I put it in my desk drawer and didn’t look at it for seven years.”
At the same time as she was filling pages of printer paper, she was also sharing similar sentiments on her personal Instagram account.
“As soon as I talked about how lonely I was in motherhood or how I wasn’t even using a degree that I was still paying off, all of these moms and women were like ‘Me, too, and I’ve been too afraid to say it,’” said Paschall.
She realized that Instagram was providing her with a new space to explore community and support in motherhood and life.
But it wasn’t until fall of 2018, when a book editor reached out to her via Instagram, that Paschall really understood how many people were connecting with her posts.
“It was this real moment where you have these secret dreams, and they kind of get put on hold, but God still knows about them, and we’re responsible for being faithful when He calls,” said Paschall.
The editor noticed Paschall’s authentic approach to parenting after a look at her profile @lovealways.anjuli. She messaged her privately and asked if she had ever thought about writing a book. Fortunately, Paschall already had 200 pages and a theme.
Creating a narrative from there felt like the next right step. So Paschall started piecing together the pages of printer paper and crafting a story that begins on PLNU’s campus.
“Loma was a place where I started to be myself,” said Paschall. “It was such a rich, life-changing, full experience, but it was also very lonely at times.
It was during her time at Loma that Paschall learned to stay with feelings that were uncomfortable. A theme that is clearly woven throughout the whole of Stay as well as her posts.
“All I can invite you to do is to stay open with Jesus the way you would with a real parent,” said Paschall. “I hope to model that in my writing and in my stories.”
A quick scroll through Paschall’s Instagram and that’s what you see. A messy kitchen framed by photos of Paschall’s smiling family. Moments of breakdown, fun road trips, and quiet wins are all caught up together in an unflinchingly open perspective on the intersection of motherhood, joy, disconnection, and loneliness.
“I hope to keep all five of my kids alive,” Paschall said with a laugh, when asked about her future plans.
She also has another book coming out next year. Until then, she plans to continue supporting her husband who’s a pastor at a local church, encouraging mothers, and filling her “well” for others to stay and draw from.