I left my home on Thursday morning an Allume Newbie and in just three days I returned home an Allume alum. What I learned in the days between went far beyond anything I could have imagined.
Nearly a year ago when I felt God saying He wanted me to go to Allume, I thought He might just be thinking of the wrong person. Why would I, a girl who plays a writer on a blog, need to go to a blogger’s conference? A girl who has not been away from home in over 12 years without her husband and kids in tow? And not to forget that I would be going to a conference in which I did not know a single person that would be attending?
I didn’t have the answer, but I listened. I bought my ticket. Booked my room. And I waited. I waited seven months for this conference. As I followed Allume on Facebook and Twitter, I quickly identified myself with the hashtag #allumenewbie. Social media became my friend, and I began to learn what this blogging conference was all about. Or, so I thought.
In the weeks leading up to the conference, schedules were announced, twitter parties were had, and it became a reality. I was headed to this conference and I was in over my head, because these women were rockstars and I was an impersonator.
In a meager attempt to plan my weekend (you can read that as control it) I selected the sessions I would attend, bought more than enough food just in case I could not eat anything, you know, because of my multitude of food allergies. I packed piles of clothes. Clothes for when I felt good, clothes for the migraine days (because, well, I left my house with one) and clothes for the in between for when I was just felt blah. But most importantly, I planned to be inconspicuous. Just to blend. If I blended then no one would realize I was not a writer, and the writing police would not find me and quickly ban me from this event.
The morning of the first day, migraine raging, I left my house with just enough time to make it for registration. I rushed in franticly. Found my room. Dropped off my bags and out the door to the welcome mingle I went. It was kind of overwhelming, in fact, I must have had a neon sign flashing over me “Allume Newbie!” Because the ever amazing word weaver Jennifer Lee meets me in the hall and asks if this was my first year.
Of course, when I opened my mouth to speak, my words sounded kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wha wha wha wha wha wha… yeah like that. Then I might have even said I have your book, The Best Yes, insert foot in mouth here, this is so not her book! Love Idol! It’s Love Idol! I have it on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I knew those writing police were on to me and would only be a matter of minutes before I was tossed out onto the street. Yup. Allume newbie I was indeed.
Jennifer, she was ever so gracious. She smiled and nodded at my sheer embarrassment, took my awkwardness in stride and led me to the welcome mingle. She even told me that if I found myself without a dinner partner to come find her. She is a Jesus rockstar.
In the hours to come as I sat at dinner and listened to Logan’s opening keynote, my world turned upside down. God did not bring me to Allume to become a better blogger or writer, He brought me there because He loves me. He wanted me to feel that deep in my heart, to never doubt my importance to Him.
He wove that thread through every keynote, every session, every chance meeting with another blogger… He loved me. At times I could not feel my breath, the weight of His love was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to look real love in the eye without looking away. It is a love so holy, it seems shameful not to avert the eyes. But He would not have any of that, He was chasing me, pursuing me. He wanted me to see, to feel, to breath in His love. He was not going to let me go engrained in my soul.
He sought me through the sessions and keynotes to come and I scribbled notes in my notebook, trying to hang on to every. Single. Word. Why is it I do not know shorthand?
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend…
Rachel Jackson – We need to live everyday as if we are killing the enemy, even if that means just getting up.
Annie Downs – Lies – I have nothing to offer, no one is following me. Truth – Even if you have one follower you are mentoring them!
Sara Hagerty – God says I see your hidden moments and I like what I see. We have stories you and me, let’s build a history of just you and me.
Emily Freeman – (my paraphrase) Embrace wonder – as image bearers of a creative God we are called to fight for wonder.
Emily Wierenga – You are not defined by your story. You are not denied by who people say you are, but rather, by who God says you are. And He says you are loved. God does not allow Pain in your life to you there. No, He allows pain because it is the secret to your purpose.
Timothy Willard – (my paraphrase) Live in the new Narnia, because the further up and further in you go into God, you discover there is no end to Him. So choose each day to live in the hope of glory, to live in the magma of Christ who is in me and to tell the most dynamic story which is the gospel. It is what is making me beautiful.
But don’t get me wrong, this conference did not disappoint. In that notebook with notes scribbled long, amongst all the love notes from God, there are words upon words of tips and advice for writing well. For loving my audience, no matter how big or small, for showing them hospitality.
It was bittersweet driving away on that Sunday morning. As much as I longed for home and my husband and girls, a part of me wanted to stay to soak it all in. Let it all break through my skin where the words of the weekend spread like salve on open wounds, strike straight through like arrows to my heart. To let it all become my heart.
I lingered in the hotel drive in the traffic jam that filled the circle. I watched as some of the speakers gathered on the shuttle to the airport, Logan walking to her car. We were all suspended in this circle waiting for the lead car to move on. It seemed a little surreal. Crowder was playing in the background, his voice breaking the silence “There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed, Come sit at the table, Come taste the grace, There’s rest for the weary, Rest that endures, Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure…”
I sat at that table and tasted the grace. As I watched and listened and spoke, the grace washed over me. It filled holes that had gaped for years. I gained a confidence that had vanished long ago. I found that I am not just a mom, I am a writer. I am a writer because He gave me a story to and He wants me to tell it. He wants me to tell it well. It is gospel.