[This is a recap of my experience at the Allume writer’s conference. It’s long, folks… but it’s my chance to work out some of my notes. Maybe you’ll catch a thread of something and run with it.]
They left David in the pasture. (Samuel 16:13-17) They didn’t even think to call him in… to invite or include him. Or, they did think about it but decided for him. David- David, who would be King and called a man after God’s own heart. David learned to lead, protect, and throw stones in the pasture- not on the throne. He was being prepared in obscurity. And, more importantly, he was known in the field, before the throne, when he was working alone. (from Melanie’s keynote)
God sees you even when the world doesn’t.
Do not despise the day of small beginnings. (Zech. 4:10)
The storm is raging outside right now, and I am struggling to put words down. I am maybe the last girl who attended Allume in October to sit down and write out some notes. I am always on the wall when the crowd is rushing in. It’s the fear of being a groupie in me. Or the need to watch first and then do. Or the desperate desire to let the waves calm before I set sail. Whatever the reason, I am slow.
I do not move well in crowds.
This conference is no different. I cling to the walls and wait for the masses to grab their seats. I hoover near my girls: Missy, Molly, Allison, Monica, and Miriam. These are my heavy-hitters. The ones who pull me back in, who hold the elevator for me, who share the covers despite only a couple hours of introduction. It has been a long time since I’ve sat at a table full of women and felt… normal. Expected. Welcome.
The beautiful and unplanned theme running through all the keynote speakers at Allume was There Is Room. There are loud voices and quiet voices and each one is necessary to tell the Big Story of redemption. Some voices are pretty and polished create a mass following. Their church is big with members that read like a Who’s Who in the believing world today. Some voices are specific and holy, but quiet and on the fringe. Their church is small but quirky and very, very cool. Low lights, lots of guitar. Others are just pretty, plain and simple. And still others are hurting and wild and mining for Truth in dark places.
The size of your audience doesn’t matter. It matters that the audience is listening. (Randy Pausch)
Everyone has a voice.
Holley says we writers are in the foot-washing business. We wash feet with words. She says it’s worth doing well- this writing thing- because it’s a ministry and I am reminded, again, how Aaron sings we have been changed to bring change. Ann says we are Esthers. We must use the life we’ve been given to give others life. Lisa preaches that there is ruin in a flood of empty words (Ecc. 5-7). Be see-through, she says. Tell stories in order to ready hearts and nudge people towards personal insight, but be focused. More words make less impact. Edie says we have been sent to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim the liberty to the captives, and Jenni reminds us that we cannot set anyone free until we are reconciled ourselves. Bianca begs us to let our pain have a purpose, that success is in rehabilitation and revival– dry bones coming to life again. (Ez. 37). Emily wants us to move toward what makes us come alive. She reminds us that we are art because we were all created in His image. We are art, and therefore we create art. What is most alive in us now that we can offer to someone else?
I’m predictably overwhelmed. I’m inspired, absolutely… but overwhelmed.
I’m just a mom right now.
Oh, trust me… that retreat was for me, absolutely. It was for Believing women who love using words and who want to be better at using words. That’s me. I want to tell stories. But, I’m a mom with a small, grass-roots audience. I’m a girl with a complicated but fairly boring history. I’m a writer without an agent or paid editor or a premium blog template.
I am the writer who sits down after the kids are tucked in, after the dishes are done, after the gates are closed. Twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday nights, I sit and I write for maybe an hour. And then I edit for spacing and formatting and photo layout… which often takes longer than the writing. And then I click “schedule” so the essay will go live the next morning. That’s it. I am not the prolific thinker that has 10 drafts saved for later. Ideas don’t run rampant through my brain, begging to get out on the page. If I think it, I write it- now- or it is lost forever to staleness or, more likely, forgetfulness.
I am the most undisciplined person I know when compared to my husband or left to my own devices, but give me a deadline or an expectation or an idea… or, better yet, A CHALLENGE… and I am on it. Thus, the 2 day per week discipline of story-telling. It’s the one thing I’ve managed to keep showing up for through feast and famine. It helps that a good attitude is negotiable and yoga pants are a given. It helps a lot.
I don’t write about politics, theology, environmental issues, cooking, or technology. I write about life. Specifically my life as it’s intersected with others. I write about faith, farming, depression, special-needs parenting, and memories. Narrative. I write narrative. I think I do ‘funny’ pretty decent and I am learning to self-edit- to prune, to be specific, to focus in and be direct.
Obviously, not today.
My ‘church,’ my ‘platform’… it may never be bigger or louder or more visible than it is right here, right now. But it can be better. I love to write and speak and tell stories and I want to practice at it. I want to get better at creating a space to share stories- to share life. Come early, come late… just be comfortable.
I’ll be out in the pasture- waiting to be called in.
1. I bought the domain applepieanyone.com (it sends you here) so that I can start building a home there with front porches for us to sit on and chat with lemonade and screaming children and pie. Definitely pie. TexasNorth.com will continue on, but I wanted the blog to have its own identity apart from the farm. Eventually, TexasNorth.com will be a home-base website for the farm that will connect to the blog here.
2. I called The Moth and pitched the Buck Story to their answering machine. Because it’s a great story. And I miss being on stage and telling stories. Will they call me back? Doubtful. But, I did it. And, it felt awesome.
3. I created a Home Team of close friends to help me figure out- specifically with writing- what I’m decent at, what I’m not… what works, what doesn’t. Because my brain doesn’t see myself without a filter and I so .
4. I started taking better notes at church. I need to know and remember Scripture better. I am excellent with stories an topics and concepts… not so great on the specific references, and for myself, I want to be able to link it back to Truths and Old Stories. I need to see how it all connects.
Allume 2013 summary:
I heard keynote speakers Ann Voskamp, Melanie Shankle, Gari Meacham, Jennie Allen, Bianca Oltoff, Emily Freeman, and Jeff Shinabarger. I attended sessions led by Holley Gerth, Edie Wadsworth, Lisa Whittle, Lisa-Jo Baker, and Erika Morrison. I volunteered to write cards for Mercy House Kenya and Switch 42:16 for my service project.
If you’ve read this far, 1. I love you for it and, 2. leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway of Ann’s latest book The Greatest Gift. Blessings to you today, friends!
[update on Wednesday night: comments are closed! The winner will be announced Thursday, 11/21!]