I’m back from Allume 2013 (Christian women’s blogging conference) and I’m skipping right to the deep stuff. For my regular readers, you’ve gotten nothing but crumbs the past few weeks. I hope this makes up for it. Grab a cup of coffee and hang in there! God does some cool stuff at the end!
After Allume last year, I knew I wanted more than ever to my words to matter. My blog wasn’t just an online journal or a hobby to me. I rebranded and read all I could about writing and increasing the audience here. I was just about desperate to grow and make a difference.
As part of that training, I signed up for Lysa TerKeurst’s Compel Training about a month ago. It’s a private online training course for writers. I love Lysa and her work and was ecstatic to soak up what I could from a 14-time author. I started a session on goals and the speaker said something like, “I assume if you’re listening to this then God has called you write. That means making goals and writing is nothing short of obedience.” I clicked the pause button almost out of anger. I had no goals and in fact, did not remember ever being called to write in response to a call from God. Sure, I’d prayed about it before and never felt called to quit blogging, but I’d never specifically felt called to write either.
At this point in time, I was struggling so much with coming up with content at all. Even though I was learning all of this stuff about how to create content, my heart felt dry and it didn’t seem that God was giving me anything to share. I have an advisory board for the blog and even they seemed to stay mum.
With response almost nil and ideas lacking, I started questioning everything. Should I quit? Does God want me doing something else? Have I been called to write? Was it time to step away finally?
A few weeks passed and the word “intimacy” kept coming up in sermons or blogs. I knew Allume was coming up and I sensed that God was beginning to prepare me for the weekend, so I made a concerted effort to dwell with him.
I made a specific playlist and worshipped him in the mornings. One of my favorite songs was Oceans by Hillsong United. I read blogs with a Christian focus and really tried to listen to God speaking. I kept a journal on my desk of things I heard him saying to me.
The first post God took me to was one about giving God nothing—meaning, we need to give up the idea of needing to give God anything to be accepted. I had to ask myself did I really believe God accepted me just as I am without ever writing, or even doing, anything for him? I felt God asking me to stop writing for a time—give him nothing and really dwell with him.
The phrase he placed in my heart regarding my writing was “cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians says God loves a cheerful giver. The passage is speaking about financial gifts the Corinthians had given but I felt God’s permission to apply that passage to my writing:
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
He showed me I was no longer blogging out of a joy and overflow of his grace, but as something I saw as a duty—one he hadn’t even asked me to do! God began showing me that once I write out of joy, then God can bless and then HE will make every good work abound. If you look up the original meaning of “good work” it actually can be translated to “art”. He was responsible for making the writing abound!
This idea of being a cheerful giver was the framework for other messages I began hearing:
- Through Andy Stanley, God opened my eyes to my addiction to applause. If I didn’t get enough feedback or comments or shares, I felt like the post was an utter failure. My joy was contingent upon the response and the worse the response was on one post, the worse I felt about the next one. It was a terrible cycle.
- Through Holley Gerth and Joel Clark, I knew I needed to live a better life. By all accounts, I have a great life but I felt like I needed to sacrifice all the time. Making myself happy on purpose seemed overly indulgent. I’ll let you read through their posts but it’s not supposed to be this way! I couldn’t give cheerfully if I was trying to be miserable!
- Not only did I need to live well but I needed to be loved well. My name “Amy” means beloved and God wanted me to live up that! He wants to love us ALL so much! My true joy and ability to give cheerfully is born out of giving back because he gave to me first out of love.
Through all that, I learned once I gave, the outcome was not up to me. My job was to cheerfully give back through writing and any outcomes were up to him. Whether I ever went viral or even impacted one person, the act of writing was meant to be out of thankfulness and an expression of joy to him.
I know that’s a lot and in fact, to even digest all of that, I created a visual of how it all fit together:
To summarize, God called me to dwell with him and give nothing for a time. In that, he led me to dump all the acceptance and approval. My new cycle was to be loved by him, be happy and live well within him, create out of the overflow with him, cheerfully give that to and for God and then let him bless it which would then feed into impact to others and his love to me.
Whew. Walking into Allume, this exact picture was in my suitcase and on my heart.
I walked into Allume still with the question, though, God, is this what you’ve called me to? I wanted God to confirm what I felt he’d been telling me. Or maybe, he’d ask me to walk away.
If you went to Allume, I hope you’re seeing just how God had prepared my heart! I think nearly everything God told me in those 2 weeks is what God spoke through the conference. As I flip through my notes, here are some highlights:
- Sarah Mae says we need to learn to go back to our first love.
- Logan Wolfram says a life well-lived is full of good content.
- Ann Voskamp says when you write for an audience of one, you always count.
- Ann says our hunger to be known is a good, God-given appetite and we ought to feed the hunger with what makes you beautiful not anxious.
- Ann says the greatest tragedy is to be widely known instead of known intimately.
- Ann reminds us to focus on a name that calls you BELOVED.
- Melanie Shankle said security and approval comes when we know we are loved and adored by Jesus who has our name engraved on his hands.
- Melanie says God sees us even when the world doesn’t.
- September McCarthy reminded us to live well with our family.
- Joel Clark reminded us to live well and finds what makes us come alive
- Joy Thigpen talked about finding something that makes ourselves and others bloom and finding an outlet for our creativity so we are just a conduit.
- Jennie Allen changed her entire keynote by the spirit’s prompting to talk about sins that have us entangled and God’s desire to free us. Her specific struggle? Letting go of approval.
- Bianca Olthoff talked from Ezekiel 37 where they saw dry bones and how God is reviving us and those around us.
I can’t even fit all the applicable notes.
The final night, though, something very personal and special happened. Jeff Shinabarger spoke as our final keynote and do you know what set of verses he shared? 2 Corinthians 9!! He talked about us being cheerful givers and being generous without expecting anything in return.
David Walker came up after to lead us in worship. I was in tears the entire hour and then was blown away that the last song they sang was the exact song from my playlist that I’d been worshipping God with—Oceans. I was singing and crying and praising God and someone came up behind me and asked to pray for me. I didn’t know her. She’s not a blogger and had no idea who I was either but felt led to pray for me.
I can’t remember all she spoke over me, but she said she felt that I was feeling spiritually bankrupt and that God wanted me to know he was with me and hovering over me as I searched for him in the darkness. He delighted in me and that it was like the alabaster jar, broken and a wonderful perfume being poured out.
She prayed a second time after I had gathered myself and gone back over to her. She said she saw Samuel and Eli when Samuel kept thinking Eli was calling for him and it was God. Eli told Samuel to say, “Here I am”. She said that’s what was required of me…that God was calling and that all I needed to say was Here I am.
Y’all. That’s not even the end.
Worship was over and I had won one of 10 paintings that artists had been painting during worship. Logan had explained that there had been prayer over the paintings and she wanted us to talk to the artist and said she believed it was a message for us.
I began crying again as I saw my painting was of a feather. When I did the rebranding this year, we had found a theme of feathers and wings in my Pinterest boards—a symbol of encouragement and lifting others up. And more than that, the word “replenish” was painted below the feather.
Y’all. I can’t even stand it.
Here I am crying out to God to be called, feeling broken and dry, looking to others for approval and acceptance—a stranger even confirms I felt bankrupt–and God just shouted back to me, I see you broken, I love you, I want to replenish you and call you out for my purposes. You just need to be available.
After all of that, I believe my calling is simply to dwell with him and be available for whatever purposes he has for me. My writing will be an overflow of that relationship and will be to and for him. Through that process, I hope it does encourage and lift others up but that’s not my job. God is the lover of our souls, not me!
I know this stuff is deep and spiritual and charismatic and whatever. THAT IS GOD. He cares so carefully about each one of us like this and we should all be experiencing him. I love him more than ever and he’s just so faithful to me. I screw it all up and he still cares enough to call me his beloved.
To those of you who have been readers here, I am bent low apologizing. If you ever have been blessed by words here, it is a true work of God that has filled in the gaps.
I have no idea what this blog will look like from here on out. It could look the same or different but know the heart behind it has changed.
To the organizers and speakers of Allume, please know that God moved mightily through your faithfulness and sacrifice. Thank you.
To God be the glory!