Carey and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Allume.

carey and theI remember being absolutely terrified to attend my first Allume (it was called Relevant) in 2011. I knew no one. I had found my roommate via Twitter and was just crossing my fingers that she was legit. I had a blog but I wasn’t some super serious blogger. I was mostly attending because I was watching Christian woman connect via the interwebs and I liked what I saw. Sure, there were also selfishly motives. I wanted to learn how to get the word out about my daily devotional for moms, grow in my writing skills, be challenged by new view points and maybe (just maybe) create some new friendships with people who liked things I liked.

The shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport set the tone for weekend. It was filled with people “I knew” or had at least seen comment or guest post in cool places. In my head I had a zillion questions to ask and while I wanted to be chatty and connect that just wasn’t in my nature. I am shy. Plus I am an introvert. Not a great combination for an overcrowded van of women and their luggage.  It felt as if I was sitting on the outside of a glass enclosed room, watching all these woman be fully capable of diving right into diverse conversations, and I was unable to get it. It was lonely and I knew I was in for a long few days. I was totally wishing I was moving to Australia. Arriving at the hotel I watched as women hugged, squealed and did the happy dance all over the place for each other. It looked like such fun. Women gathered in groups and took silly pictures in the photo booths and sat in circles on the lounge floor having deep and meaningful conversations and while I longed to be a part I really wasn’t sure how to do that. I mean seriously, do you just walk up to a group of strangers and say “you sure look like you are having soooo much fun. Can I crash it?” I remember being thankful that the lounge was filled with lots of decor so I could walk around looking at the walls and not just seeming desperate and wishing someone would have asked if I wanted to join in their floor gathering. (I was having horrible flashbacks to the 1st day of 6th grade lunch room. Ug!)

I can remember standing in the stairwell of the hotel texting with my “in real life friends”, tears streaming down my face, and just wishing that someone there knew me so I didn’t seem so invisible. It was terrible, horrible, no good and I was definitely having a very bad Allume. I promise, I don’t mean to scare you! Hang with me.

friendship 3

As we enter our new July series: Friendship I wanted us to take some time to examine friendship in the context of the conference. For some, attending Allume is a reunion of friendships that they look forward to all year. Girls stay up all night and have oooh so0000 much fun! Others meet their table mates at Thursday night dinner and have instant new buds that become lifelong friends and then there is the “me” type. Are you the “me” type? Are you coming alone, desiring to be brave, but needing a little kick in the cute jeans to get there? If that is you will you allow me to provide you some ideas so you don’t wind up in the fetal position?

friendship theme verse

1. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!

After the 2011 conference I had zero plans to attend again. I mean why would I fly across the country to spend 4 days feeling insecure and crying in a stairwell? But as the 2012 tickets went on sale I found my heart wishing I had a “do over”. I wanted to try again. This time with my best foot forward. I bought a ticket. A few weeks before the conference I saw a tweet that said if we wanted to help volunteer with decorations we should email this gal named Logan. I sent her an email and told her that I was happy to help. In my mind it would give me something to do rather than sit around wishing someone was going to invite me into their awesome pow-wow circle. When I arrived someone pointed me towards Logan and it was clear that there was LOTS to get done. I could tell she had a plan but she wasn’t sure if she could trust me to execute it to her liking. Attending to details of decor was something I knew without a shadow of a doubt I could handle. So I grabbed the face of this woman I just met, looked her straight in the eyes, and said “I can do this! Just tell me what you need.” The rest is kinda history. After the 2012 conference Sarah Mae gave Logan ownership of the conference and Logan asked me to come along side her as the Creative Director. What a ride! If you have any fears about connecting at the conference please choose to volunteers. It gets you outside your own head and it is super helpful to us!

P.S. If there is ever a moment of loneliness for you at the conference will you make me a promise? Will you come to the registrations tables, ask someone to point you towards Carey Bailey and then grab me by the face and tell me you need a place to volunteer. I will 100% get it.

2. Create a Be Brave Moment. 

At the 2011 conference I can remember listening to Sara Sophia share during one of the writing panels. I was enamored. I connected with her style and wanted to know more. Despite the whirlwind of insecurities happening inside me that weekend I decided to send her a private message via twitter thanking her for all that she had shared during the session and I asked her if she might have any time to connect. To my surprise she replied back and said “sure!” We sat in the lounge and I got to have some one-on-one time (much more my comfort zone) to just explore more of what she had said during her session. We didn’t become new found BFF’s and she probably doesn’t even remember that but for me it was a brave moment in which I took a risk that I look back on fondly. What will your be brave moment be?

3. Do Unto Others as You Wish Others Would Do Unto You.  

Are you wishing someone would invite you to jump into their photo booth shots? Then invite someone else flying solo to jump into a shot with you. Are you wanting to dive deeper into some of the topics hit on?  Then ask some of your meal table mates to meet you at a certain time to keep the conversation going. Are you longing for a buddy to sit with at meals? Then ask the person next to you at Friday morning breakfast for their number, let them know you will save them a place for lunch and then text them where you are sitting. I have learned that no one is intentionally trying to leave anyone out and that the famous lounge floor circles are open to any and all but for those of us who don’t excel in the land of lots of people we either have to be willing to tap on a shoulder of someone we don’t know and ask to come in or be okay with alone time. Allume can feel like a terrible, horrible, no good , very bad weekend for those of us shy people coming alone or we can be willing walk forward in confidence trusting that God will put the right people in front of us at the just right time.

This will be my fifth Allume and that is coming from a girl who swore to never go back again after my 1st year. Every year I learn something new. Every year I grow.  And every year God pushes me way out of my comfort zone. And for that I am thankful.

A Vision of Hope

Sole Hope

We are excited to share a bit about Sole Hope and our hopes and dreams.  Today’s words come from Lis Steckle, Sole Hope’s International Coordinator for the last 1.5 years.

Sole Hope is in a season of change and growth, as we look forward to building and expanding onto a new plot of land not too far from our current operations in Jinja, Uganda. We are excited to start construction and move forward with this big God dream. Together we walk forward into the plans that he has for us.

It was the first time I had seen the land. The first time I laid eyes on the future of Sole Hope. The first time that it all hit me at once.

I’ve had the honor of watching Sole Hope grow over the past two-and-a-half years. From volunteering stateside – watching the Collies get ready to set off on this new journey, to traveling to Jinja in the summer of 2013, to moving and working alongside Sole Hope Uganda starting at the beginning of last year. I’ve truly witnessed this organization, our founders, and our staff grow and change in miraculous ways since Drü & Asher moved their life here at the beginning of 2013. All of this lead up to this one moment, this one piece of land, this one God orchestrated dream.

Uganda New Land for Sole Hope

The emotions took some time to sink in. Asher briefly explained the plans for building, for the well, & for the HOPE filled future that lies on that very land. We climbed on the Land Cruiser, taking in the vastness of this new land that God provided.

But then, we took some time to walk around the land, dream about the future, and pray over the lives that will be touched, the feet that will be washed, & the HOPE that will be restored in so many families on the very spot that we placed our feet. We came back together to share what the Lord had been saying to us individually, to speak words over the future of the land, and to pray as a community of believers who were on board with this God inspired dream.20150318_uganda-new-land_0075

I stood there, surrounded by so many people experiencing Uganda and Sole Hope for the first time, and realized that I wouldn’t be in Uganda for so much of the progress from this point on. This is the first time that I don’t have a return date – I don’t know when the next time I will step off a plane in this beautiful country will be. And all of it hit at once. My life for the past two years has been focused around Sole Hope, my feet have been planted in this country, and these people are my family. And now, I have to give it all back to the Lord, knowing that this is all done to make Him GREATER.

And then I stopped for a moment – this isn’t about me. This isn’t about Sole Hope. This isn’t about what our human hands are able to do. This is completely, from beginning to end, about what the Lord is doing – we are but only the vessels. It is for me to determine whether I will trust him in that promise, or if I will struggle to put pieces together with my broken, selfish, human hands.

So here I stand, wrestling with how I let go, and let God. This is his vision, and has been since the very moment it was a thought in Asher’s mind, and that’s how it remains to this day. He only asks us to go, to be, to live – but to do these through Him. It is possibly the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do, but I am leaving it in the hands of the one who holds every pain & every joy in the palm of His hand.

Property of Sole Hope

So as we move through the coming months, I pray that it is Him, through us, who moves – who places words in our mouths, and extends HOPE and grace to all those around us. I pray that His presence is felt in such tangible ways, that there is no denying His presence.

This life we give to Him. May He use it for his glory – living to only to make Him GREATER.

Visit our website to learn more about Sole Hope.

All photos by Gary S. Chapman.

Authentically Creative

It was just upstairs from the bar, this swank little super-club on Hollywood Blvd.  I would pick up shifts when I needed to make some cash, and this month I hadn’t booked any acting or writing jobs and rent was coming up.  Black slacks, white button down dress shirt, black tie and a red fitted vest. I looked like a monkey, but I could play the part.

The night was young and the piano man was just waking up the keys.  First tables were filling up and I would get the next one seated.  I heard them coming up the stairs long before they reached the floor.  Tourists. I guessed it before they were even seated in my booth by the window, overlooking the boulevard.

“Are you an actress?” Asked the lady with blond curls in her sweet midwestern drawl?  “I bet you’re an actress.  Have I seen you in anything?” Her husband laughed like we were enjoying an inside joke together, but I didn’t find it funny.

“Can I start you with something to drink?  Jimmy is famous for his peach martini.” They laughed again, like it was another joke. So I told them I’d give them a few moments and come back with some waters for the table.

“Oh no, don’t go!” Said the man with the eyes still dancing. “It’s just that all our waitresses on this trip have been actresses and you’re the prettiest one so far so it’s got to be true.  You’re an actress too aren’t you?”

I wanted to tell them the whole list of roles I’d played in the past years, but there I was in my uniform taking a drink order and just wanted to disappear into one of Jimmy’s martinis.  “You guessed it, I’m an actress.” I said it with a smile, and the two of them erupted into applause like they had just won a bet and were going to split the pot!

When I came back with their drinks they leaned in soberly and asked me this memorable question, “How long are you going to give it?”

I wish I could go back right now and watch myself closely; see the look on my face, hear the tense lilt in my voice.  “How long am I going to give what?  Being an actress?” They nodded expectantly. “Well, you see, I believe that God made me an actress, it’s part of who I am.  So you are basically asking me how long I’m going to give myself the opportunity to be myself before I embark on the grand adventure of being someone else.”

 

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Of course, my answer wasn’t really fair, I knew what they meant, still I needed to reaffirm who I was to my own ears and heart.

Maybe you need to do the same thing some days.  Maybe your friends ask you about your hobby-blogging; your mom doesn’t understand this drive to do something other than just mother, since she was happy simply raising you; or perhaps your husband is questioning the cost of your domain name and website and plane ticket to Allume, asking if you’re making any money yet on that Etsy shop. And it all feels like pressure – because maybe it is time to quit.

How long are you going to give it?

My face is hot as I type the question out, because I’m sort of passionate about how God made you; fearfully… wonderfully… creatively. And I don’t want you to doubt for one moment His joy over your design!  I don’t want you to question His delight in your unique dreams, as you balance so many things, every facet for His glory. He is near, enjoying how He made you.

That doesn’t mean that your dreams won’t change. Go with the flow. I’m not in Hollywood anymore. But the story-telling part of me is still alive.

So how long are you going to give yourself, to be yourself?

Here’s my advice: Don’t ever stop!

Is it possible that your dreams may end up looking a little different than you penned them in your journal?  Is it possible that God’s guiding Spirit takes you down some varied path? Is it possible God prepared many small good works for you, rather than big ones? Is it possible that He’s not finished with you yet? Absolutely. Time and again, Yes! So don’t you stop!  You keep pressing in to Him and pressing on where His Holy faithful Spirit directs.

This month we’re talking about being Authentic here at Allume.  This post is my clenched fist, shaking at every nay-sayer on your behalf. Those literal voices of family and friends and strangers… and the stealth heated whisper of the devil himself.  Listen to me.  Listen to me, not them, I’ve got the word for you today:

Press in and press on, my friends!

Write it out, sing it loud, say it in the syncopated rhythm of a spoken word poem, paint it, create it, lay it down and live it out in a one woman show at your next women’s ministry event. Press on in the little moments of your mothering, married, ministry loving loving days, when there is room to create. And in this way, follow the call to be authentically true to who you are.

His Creative.

Thoughts on Finding Your Place in the Blogosphere

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I remember it with astounding clarity. The confusion swirling as I tried to find my place among all the cliques, clubs and activities that fill a high school campus to bursting was sending me into my own personal tailspin. I didn’t know if I wanted to be defined by choir or swim team, my role at the student newspaper or my meager attempts to be coordinated and hit my mark on the dance floor.  I just wanted to try them all on, like new clothes or a big crinoline gown. I wanted to twirl and spin for a while to see how they each one felt when I walked and sashayed. I wanted to know if they felt true not only in front of my bedroom mirror, but when I had to show my face to the world.

Some days I thought the kids in flannel shirts and mellow expressions had it figured out best: they didn’t choose, they just quit the game and stood in the corner smirking as the rest of us scrambled. I wanted to quit too. I even spent a year or two in mostly flannel trying to act like a didn’t care. But deep down I really did. I really cared about finding a place. Not the fitting in really, not the acceptance, but just the knowing that there was a spot where I fit, a place where my personality and gifts would collide with like minded hearts and we’d all be a part of something. 

I think many of us approach blogging like that too. We start out with jitters, excitement, a longing to connect or a calling to share, and we want to be a part of something that extends far beyond ourselves. We want to dive deep and live wild, but then we start to look around and wonder if our small offerings fit the landscape of the web….we start to wonder if we fit, and where. And so we try on a few flannel shirts and a few sets of choral robes and some cletes, wondering if they are going to fit just right and feel like us. We camp out on Facebook, then switch to Instagram, then hop on to twitter, wondering which place to connect fits best. We hang with the justice bloggers and chat design with the home decor crowd and we might even (for the love!) give cross fit a little whirl with our fitness blogger peeps. We take classes and head to conferences and try to learn how to grow and figure this whole thing out. All the while, we long to find our people and our place. 

But at the end of the day, we feel the push to find the perfect niche. We fear the freedom that coincides with choosing and wonder if we might choose wrong and be stuck in a groove that isn’t a fit at all. We cling to rules and social media schedules and our desire to get it all “right.” I think at some point we all wonder why we ever had to be just one thing and how its even possible to fit our whole selves into a perfectly square blog sized box.

When we begin to find our blogging groove, we learn that our longing for place and people and a sure fit is never going to come through activities or association.The only thing that is ever going to fill up your soul isn’t actually a place at all, but a person.

He is home and he is in you and he is waiting to let his light shine forth in your online space with all the glory and creativity that he has poured into you, uniquely and beautifully, for such a time as this. You can’t really know where you fit and who you are until he’s the one filling up every inch of your heart space and your computer screen.

You can’t really realize the wonder of your call and of this blogging life until he shows you all the lovely things he poured into your personality. All your gifts, all your affections, all the things that make your heart beat fast and make your mind buzz when you think of sharing them? He put those there! And they are vast and varied and as full of possibility and multiple angles as the breadth of creation.

And if you still aren’t sure about all the grace and loveliness he’s poured into you? Well, the very heart of beauty at the center of being God’s child is that he loves it when you ask questions. He loves to pour out the answers, and loves to equip you for every good work he has prepared in advance for you to do.

So sit with him awhile?

Pour out your ideas, your dreams, your passions and wild hopes. Share with him your fears, your insecurities, your blind spots. And then…listen. Don’t be afraid to spend time in stillness, in rest. Create white space that begs for his voice alone to fill it. Then run into what he reveals. Lean in to the gifts as well as limitations of how he has knit you together and enjoy the journey of finding your voice and your place where he leads you.

I’m so thankful we are waiting on him together,

Kristen

www.hopewithfeathers.com