Allume 2014 was amazing and much needed. I took away more than I thought I would but I also feel like there were some issues that need to be talked about more.
Last year I went to Allume expecting to learn more about blogging and do some networking. Instead I came away broken and raw in a good way with messages from God to go and to speak. In a way, I listened. And then in a way, I made it into some lofty dream in my head. So this year, I went with an open heart and mind, ready to be broken and raw again. I went with the plan of talking to everyone and being an extrovert when it scared the socks off this introvert (seriously- I am an ISTJ).
What happened was not what I expected at all.
I drove BY MYSELF (huge deal) to Greenville, SC for 5 and a half hours through DOWNTOWN ATLANTA y'all! I should mention I told Siri that I wanted a route that avoided downtown Atlanta and she took me straight through it. The trip was perfect. All it took was me being brave and just doing it. It only took 14 years for it to happen. ( If you have never been to Greenville, SC go! It is beautiful and friendly. They embody hospitality.)
I checked into the hotel and met up with new friends and old and poured into my soul with my sisters, my tribe. I went to dinner with someone who I have waited 2 years to meet and it was everything I imagined it would be. The next day I set out to be an extrovert- insert inward cringing and middle school fear. I talked to people. I re-connected with others. I made sure I talked to vendors and learned about the businesses and to talk to women who last year scared me because they were big bloggers. Seriously, one of the first people I hugged was Sarah Mae. (Right after I finished crying from attending Beta induction via Face Time and the screen going out right when Pacey was pinned). She knew something was up and she hugged me and encouraged me and it really means the world to me that she took that time. She is still one of my favorites let me just tell you that.
I poured prayers into journals for the ones who God gave me to words to write and spoke to the ones who God gave me the words to speak to. I realized that when God clearly told me I was supposed to speak at Allume 2014 that he didn't mean on a stage. He meant in the lobby, to the staff, to the newbie blogger who looked scared, to the vendors, and to my friends. I put every ounce of my introverted self into a pouch for the weekend. I did what he said to do. I spoke at Allume 2014.
I heard the message of hospitality and took it to my heart and realized that it doesn't mean that I have to bring 500 people into my home to practice hospitality- I can take it to the people. I can create warmth and welcoming within myself, at work, at church, and yes, at home. I can create warmth and welcoming here in this space.
I also heard a message that worried me. A message that diversity is skin color. And I was made to feel guilty for being a youngish, white woman in this country. And then I realized- God made me to be who he wanted me to be. I am not going to let anyone make me feel guilty for it or lessen the worth that he has given me. Diversity is not skin color alone. Diversity is our hearts, our backgrounds, our experiences, our beliefs, and the unique gifts given to us by a father who loves us for who we are. It worries me that women believe that there has to be different skin tones for a conference to be diverse. And it worried me how many women I heard say they felt guilty for being white. Because I live right outside Albany, GA. A big location in the civil rights movement. And I am here to tell you- color doesn't matter. People matter and what they do matters. And we tend to drift to like people- people who like the same things we do, believe like we do, and people who have similar experiences. They can mean that they have the same skin color and that can mean that they don't. It doesn't mean that you are hateful towards someone else. And putting a token person of color on a speaker panel that is prayerfully chosen does not make it right. It makes it a token and it makes it obvious. And y'all- God don't like ugly- and forcing someone to pick you using the color card is UGLY.
I decided then and there that I was done with that. I will teach my children diversity in the true form- persons of different cultures, sinners and believers, and yes, even people of different skin tones. And I will not be made to feel guilty for being who God made me.
I also realized that as much as I love Sole Hope- an overseas mission trip is not for me. We have missions here at home that need our attention. So I am shifting my focus to them for a family trip. I met some amazing women who unknowingly spoke straight to my heart at the booths this weekend. One was selling SHOES!!!! Awesome, beautiful shoes made by former gang members in a country that guarantees that would not work otherwise. I met a woman who hosts orphans in her home for short periods of time to show them love that they otherwise don't experience. I met a woman who makes sparrow jewelry to remind these orphans that they are loved. I spoke with another woman who realized over the last year that it was time to take her experience somewhere else and help another empowering company grow. I realized that these women are providing a mission field right here at home.
I walked away realizing that I am ready to write again after taking a break when there were no words to write. I am ready to re-envision a dream that for a while made me feel tired. I am ready to make some choices that I otherwise would not. And to talk about some choices that we can make as a family that I would never have thought of before.
Allume has blessed me and given me direction both times I have attended. And for that I thank Logan and Sarah Mae for following God's direction. And I pray they never waver from where God wants it to go. Logan- you are an amazing woman and leader and follower of Jesus and God. You offer diversity throughout the entire speaker panel and never let someone make you feel like you don't. Never give in to the pressure. Continue to prayerfully chose speakers and listen to who God wants to put up there.
** This post is being written on a day when I unexpectedly ended up at home because someone put a bomb threat on a website about our schools. As a blessing in disguise I was able to process Allume a little more and spend time with my boys who had not seen since last week. I will never understand why people feel this is cool and I also lost a little confidence in our school because they acted like it was no big deal when they were informed. I went and got my children out of school as soon as I found out. I am not sure I trust that they will not treat it like a joke every time when it could be the real deal.