I just came home last Sunday from my first ever blogging conference, Allume. See, I’ve been watching this conference from afar ever since it was called “Relevant”. I actually tried to go last year but it was sold out by the time I had made up my mind. During the 2012 conference I watched my Twitter stream blow up with the Allume hashtag and I resolved then and there that I would be at Allume 2013 no matter what. Once I found out it was in Greenville (practically in my back yard), wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from going.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had made lots of friends in the online blogging community but I didn’t really know how those relationships would translate once we were face to face. From the first person I encountered (my roommate Julie) to the last one I introduced myself to (Mary, who worked the help desk with me Saturday night), it was clear that God was placing people into my path with Divine purpose. And while I didn’t get to meet or talk with every single person I would have liked to meet, the ones I did get to meet were just so wonderful I’m not sure I could have handled any more wonderful-ness.
He set me up with my three marvelous roommates, and I could not have asked for better ones. Tonya and I have spent months building a friendship online and have so much in common that we joke we were separated at birth. I know that she will continue to be a dear friend, even though we are many miles apart. I already knew Julie from her blog, but she is even sweeter and more delightful in person, if you can believe it. And Heather and I discovered that we lived in the same town and attended the same church several years ago yet never knew each other until now. Coincidence? Of course not! Lots of sweet, sweet conversation took place in room 754.
God put two very special ladies in my path one afternoon who spoke love over me and encouraged me to pursue what sounds like a dream job. Could it be a God-sized dream? Well, since I haven’t actually finished Holley’s book yet I can’t say for sure, but it looks like it very well might be.
He arranged for me to meet an online friend who I admired so much that I found her slightly intimidating. As soon as she slid into the restaurant booth next to me for a “side hug” I felt I’d known her forever. (I still admire her style but she’s not intimidating to me anymore, and I think that’s the way it should be between sisters in Christ.)
I met lots of Five Minute Friday friends, and it was like we had known each other all our lives. Seeing the precious faces behind the avatars was priceless, and being able to hug them was a bonus. And now when I read their posts and tweets, I can still hear their voices.
Speaking of Five Minute Friday, the experience of doing it live, together, was…just…wow.
Existing relationships grew deeper and new ones began this past weekend. The hard part is that in most cases we are divided by hundreds if not thousands of miles and that means that we’ll need to be intentional about maintaining connections.
That’s not to say that the weekend was not without its awkward moments. I’ll admit there were times when I felt a little like a duck out of water and considered retiring to my room for some chocolate and TV, but every single time I thought it was a good time to make my escape someone would come up to me, introduce herself, and strike up a conversation, and the awkward moment was over.
I drank coffee – lots of lots of very good coffee, thanks to Just Love Coffee. It’s kind of important when you’re only getting a few hours of sleep a night. There were so many good talks to have in such a limited amount of time that sleep just didn’t seem as necessary.
One message I heard over and over is that every voice is important, no matter the size of its reach. We are created for a God-given purpose and we should pursue it with abandon, keeping our eyes on Jesus. I learned that the sight and sound of 453 women worshiping with open hearts and open hands is a little bit of heaven right here on Earth and that I will never again hear “10,000 Reasons” or “It Is Well With My Soul” without remembering how it felt to sing them with my sisters at Allume.
I cannot say enough nice things about the Allume team and the tireless hours they put in to make Allume an experience that would ensure that we walked away different than when we arrived. The keynote speakers, the session leaders and the sponsors were all amazing! I can’t speak for anyone else but I felt so cared for, prayed for and welcomed the whole time.
My one regret? That I didn’t spend enough time in the Smile Booth. I think I took a grand total of three photos. Next year you’re going to have drag me out of it.
The binder? Not important. The elevator speech? Way important! I lost count of how many times someone asked me what my blog was about and I had no idea how to articulate it. I could probably write a whole separate post on what I did that worked and what didn’t.
On Saturday night when we were given the opportunity to make art during worship time, I was inspired to depict a night sky with stars. (I may or may not have scraped a little glitter off the centerpieces to make the stars shine. I plead the Fifth.) And the words that cried out to be written on the picture went like this: “The stars don’t ask permission to shine. They do what they were created to do – no questions, no doubts, no fears. Shouldn’t we?” So maybe that’s one takeaway: we have all been created to “do” something, our own special something, and we need to just get busy doing it and stop thinking so hard about it.
Recently I read a passage in the book Love Does by Bob Goff that screamed Allume to me. Substitute the word “write” for the word “say” and maybe you’ll see what I mean:
Words can launch us. We don’t need to be a dean to say words that can change everything for someone. Instead, God made it so that ordinary people like you and me can launch each other. In fact, I wonder if we can launch people better than a dean because we’re ordinary. I believe it’s true that the right people can say words that can change everything. And guess what? We’re the ones who can say them.
I just don’t know how I’m going to wait until next October to do it all over again.