Such great community at Allume
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!
Wow Amy that’s wonderful and amazing! (that’s all I got, afterall, I’m not the writer in the family!) 🙂 Love you! Mom
Love you too! Thanks for helping with the kids while I was gone 🙂
Jill Gottenstrater says
Amy, thank you for sharing your heart. What a BEAUTIFUL testimony of God’s faithfulness. Your story is very inspirational. Keep listening to Him and allowing Him to pour out through you. God is good all the time.
Yes, I think continuing this journey now is key. So difficult though with so many distractions.
Rachel M. says
That was awesome Amy! I missed Allume this year, glad it was so fitting for you.
Aw, I hate you missed it. It was a beautiful year. Hopefully you can experience it some through the posts.
Dear Amy, I am so thankful for you! For your words! For your vulnerability and boldness in sharing your heart. I wished I had found you in that sea of people at Allume. I would have loved to have met you. God met me, too, with a stranger coming up next to me, the night Jennie Allen spoke, and whispered His words to me–words of healing and invitation. He just keeps coming for us, wanting us to know we are seen and loved and that we have a choice to take the beautiful gift He is offering to us, so willingly. We don’t have to search hard. Much love to you–and I am so grateful for your sharing here. Bless you.
Jennifer recently posted…made, over and over
I know there are so many stories like this and cannot wait to hear them all! Hopefully we will meet in the future. Blessings to you as well!
I love this line -“I know this stuff is deep and spiritual and charismatic and whatever. THAT IS GOD.” Yes, Yes, Yes! He’s the God who raises the dead, after all. By nature of believing that, we’re already pretty crazy, aren’t we? I spent this past month writing about hearing God’s voice and total shared about how God uses life events to speak to us. You post relates so well. Love it. I’m excited to connect with your more Amy.
Heather recently posted…Day 28: Coincidence? I Think Not.
Heather, I so love that you found your way here. During the 2 weeks before Allume I somehow landed on your blog and it was definitely part of the encouragement to continue to put the pieces together knowing they weren’t coincidences. I love that it’s not a coincidence that you found me today either. God is good!
Shannon Dew says
You expressed this so much better than I could have, but leaving Allume for the first time this year I also decided to put my blog on hold as I seek God’s voice and purpose. I am excited to see where God has led you and what He is doing through you and your voice. As I begin to seek Him in my writing instead of others I am nervous and humble to see where I am in a year. Thank you so much for sharing.
Last year was my first Allume and it is exciting to see what God can do in just a year. Praying for direction for you!
I’ve never actually read your blog before but found you via Sarah Mae’s tweet of this post. I’m not even sure what it is that I want to say right now except that these words, this encouragement, from God to you is encouraging to me too. I’ve got a little piddly blog that doesn’t do much but I’ve got this thing in my heart that want’s to expand. Not necessarily the blog but just something that wants to grow and be used and I don’t know how or what or when. Hum, but God knows doesn’t he! If he’s the one stirring then I just need to wait for the soup to be ready to serve. I guess He’ll put out the plates and spoons too when it’s time. So, I guess I’m saying God’s using your words, what He did for you, it is His purpose and will and what flows over from you will be caught in another heart only to fill that one so it too can overflow. Ok, I guess I’ll stop now since I don’t really know where I’m going :).
(It was the “After all of that, I believe…” paragraph that got me most.)
SaraR recently posted…bird is the word
Sara, thank you for sharing. Yes, just keep seeking him. Clearly, I’m still learning but I know God will meet you. As someone shared this weekend, your blog might be small, but offer your fishes and loaves and God will do what needs done.
Wow! Can you stand how sweet and creative and mind blowing amazing this God of ours is! He wanted to be absolutely sure that you heard him to the last detail. I love this.
When I got home, my husband ask me who my favorite speaker was… I thought…then I said it was one big message. My favorite speaker was….Jesus! It is true.
I look forward to reading more of your journey!
Jen recently posted…Day 6 and should I reconsider?
Love that thought, Jen!!
Love that thought, Jen, and so true!! So glad we got to meet!
Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says
I love this and you. I don’t have any other words this morning, but I wanted you to know I was here and I am blown away by God’s goodness to speak to and through you. xoxo
Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect recently posted…What I Do on Sunday Mornings
So glad you are! Missed you tons this weekend. I was on TimeHop which shows me my social media posts from a year ago and it was the IG of me and you at breakfast at allume. Sad face. I know we were both where we were supposed to be though.
Amy this is just awesome! I’ve always loved that you are the most transparent friend I have and I think God uses that quality to reveal so much of Himself to others – not only in your bloggy audience but in the lives of those around you in ‘real life.’ As always, honored to call you friend.
You’re the best. I love you and still miss you. Never feels right not to have you for a girls weekend!
Wow! Thanking God for you and for the ways He loved you and spoke to you leading up to Allume and during Allume! Can’t wait to watch him work in you in the weeks and months ahead!!
Thanks for praying for me this weekend. Just pray I continue to walk close to him!
ginger harington says
Loved meeting you this weekend. How special to read how God was working and blessing you Saturday evening. Blessings of rest, joy, and refreshment.
Ginger, it was great getting to meet you. You are such an encouragement and sweet spirit! Looking forward to what God does in your ministry!
Cynthia Stuckey says
Oh, AMY! I love, love, LOVE this!! Thank you so much for sharing. And I’m so happy to have met you this weekend!
Same here. I hope this explains why I was feeling a little drained Saturday evening for the Smile Booth 🙂 Love your heart and so glad we met!!
Amy. BEAUTIFUL. Tears leaking. God is SO. GOOD.
By the way; just discovered you are cousins with Kelly Osterbind. I knew her at LU. 🙂 Small small world!!
WHAT?! There was another gal at the conference that knew my cousin–Amanda at thehomemadefig. Crazy small world.
Thanks for the link, Amy! Great post…..
You bless and your words are a gift. I am so happy to see how God has moved in you in so many connecting ways. Thank you for sharing it all!
Christin recently posted…Allume Changed Me
You’re welcome, Christin, and thank you for all your work!
Amy this is so beautiful. I kept hearing God telling me he simply delights in me. I see how his wanting to give us good gifts is constant. Him proving he is good over and over and over again. I am thankful to hear how Jesus has done this very thing to you, and I only wished we could have met. Blessings to you!
Kamille@Redeeming_table recently posted…When Sharing the Table Is In the Hidden Places
Kamille, isn’t it awesome how he delights in all of us and works so hard to make that known? He’s so good! Hopefully we’ll get to connect next year?
Alia Joy says
I had goosebumps from half way down this post. God is so good. Why do we ever doubt? Why do we ever look anywhere but to Him? I am blown away by the precious gifts He has for each of us. The way He loves us in the moments when we come with nothing but desperate praise. It was so good to see you, even if it was in passing. I am so encouraged hearing what God is doing in your life.
Alia Joy recently posted…When Brave Speaks: An Allume Recap
“Why do we ever look anywhere but to Him?” I don’t know. I’m praying I don’t forget this weekend anytime soon.
Robin Dance says
SO good to meet you, Amy. And this telling? ALL of the things swirling in your life with God thumbprints everywhere? Amazing.
I’m always so shy to meet someone who I’ve danced around with in blogland…but I knew you immediately. Learning about how the Lord was working before, during…and after Allume is blessing to me, too. You’ve shared your heart well.
Robin Dance recently posted…Peanut Butter and Machiavelli
Robin, it was so great to meet you as well. You’re a light in every room you’re in–just like you are online! Thanks for stopping by here!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful Allume experience with us. I hope that I get to go next year!
Barbie recently posted…Good Things Up Ahead!