~ even the mere mention of it stirs up love and excitement... all the thoughts of Kindred and Community swirl around in my heart and I forgot to even really be nervous!
I didn't plan ahead for that...
I knew it would go by too fast and while I loved the reality of hugging necks and making eye contact in the flesh -as much as I loved the IDEA of long talks over coffee or sitting in corners for hours at a time- I didn't really give in to those hopes! I guess I assumed that I loved all the same people that everyone else surely would want face to face time with. I figured everyone would be after that as well and I didn't want to put any pressure or expectations on friends I was just meeting in real life. I wanted to honor and trust that God would orchestrate the connections I was meant to make... (I just thought some of them would be the connections I was wanting too!) I didn't want to be one more in a long line of bloggers wanting to meet so desperately that you would walk away drained and empty. I forgot that when we pour out, He fills up... and so I missed out on some of those opportunities - not wanting to take only, and forgetting that I can give!
When the opportunity first arose for me to attend Allume this year, it didn't feel real. I wasn't sure I could trust it... but I leaned in and prayed. We are not normally cross-country travelers, and we live paycheck to paycheck... but God made a way and as soon as I saw His hand in it, I settled in my heart that other than a handful of friends I longed to hug proper in real life, what I MOST WANTED for my Allume experience was to be able to be a blessing... to pour out more than I attempted to drink in. This was my hearts' desire and yet I forgot that I had anything to give... So this is where it gets real and messy and hard.
I'm not convinced that that happened... I feel a
But please hear my heart: No matter my own lack luster experience, I ADORE Allume and I highly recommend it! As hard as it was on me, there were a LOT of great moments that I am oh so thankful for! So - let's start with a few of those...
From the TOP down, ya'll - the Allume Team is Ah - MAY - Zing!!! They rock and they really are all about community and Kingdom, and I love them! They speak my language and live my tagline... They really do Speak Life, (are) Be(ing) Love, and Shine On!
Thursday as I walked up to register, a sweet online friend - one whom I was so looking forward to meeting inrl (in real life) was among the first to greet me and honestly, if I traveled across that country for her alone - it was worth the trip! She was grace and beauty and hugged me sweetly and spoke words that I would cling to throughout the weekend when the enemy would spew lies at me. She handed over my Swag Bag (don't even get me started! - Oh MY?) and later, she found me and handed me a gift and a card from her personally... and she sat beside me while we prayed and wrote His heart to sisters caught in bondage in the Dayspring Lounge... but more that any of that - she offered me friendship that runs deep and true and she was to me a safe harbor when I felt a bit lost at sea.
My sweet Tonya, the very reason I was even standing at Allume at all - how you hugged me close and wrapped me up and how you left your table to sit with me and share your heart - as you so consistently and openly do...
You bless, my friend! ...and I love you all the more for it!
Sarah Mae - Girl... I will take all of your self-proclaimed Awkwardness and hug you full on for 6 seconds and beyond and when you didn't let me linger looking for a single minute, with breakfast in my hands, and a searching in my eyes - but just pulled out a chair and made room for me? You just can't know... and while we didn't get a chance to really talk, that impacted me and challenged me to be more like that - more like Jesus... and I love you all the more!
How the elevator was full and Logan, you just hopped right on and after months of talking back and forth on facebook about Allume, sure - but also about Biltmore and man caves and all things touristy... you saw me and greeted me with such joy: "Karrilee! It's me, Logan!" Precious! As if you needed an introduction - but it was so adorable and genuine and in the midst of feeling a bit invisible, you were, yet again, a gift to me! ...and I love you all the more for it! (...and we LOVED Biltmore, btw!)
Seeing a gathering of some of my favorite Five Minute Friday girlies in the lobby... squeezing them close and waiting to say hello to Lisa Jo. I began to introduce myself and she interrupts me with, "Karrilee - why did you wait so long to hug me?" as she leaned in and a little of her South African leaked out and her heart, ya'll, is even bigger in real life!
She is really and honestly all about community and a little later in passing her in a hallway - she introduced me and my Honey to her friend Ann. Welcoming is just what she is... warm and bubbling over with love and joy and I love her all the more for it!
Sweet Amy and Jessica... Andi and Jenny... even though we didn't have much time to really talk - simply hugging tight in real life and confirming that yes - for real - we are for each other... -totally worth the trip for me!
Each and every Keynote speaker and session leader spoke to my heart and confirmed things that God has been saying to me for quite some time and each one was transparent and accessible and gracious and I love them all the more for the words and spirit and love they freely poured out!
There were so many moments that I treasure... meeting friends - sisters, really - who encourage me online consistently... Missy, Vanessa, Aprille, Kim, Jennifer, Shelly, Kathi, & Alia...
Meeting new friends and familiar faces and talking real life over cupcakes and salads... Jennifer (well - all the Jennifers, really!), Ashlee, Mandy, Beth Anne, & Sarah... Seeing so many women connecting, sharing, giving, and receiving - it blessed me so.
For me, it felt like I was mostly on the outside looking in. For most of the days, I felt isolated and set apart...
I was so far out of my comfort zone and so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of happy chatter that I felt somehow removed from it all - like an observer of All. The. Things.
I'm shy until you get to know me but that is the beauty of the internet! We can know each other on deep levels before ever sharing the same air. I was born and raised in a small town and there are not many places that I go where I don't know anyone and I didn't think this would be an issue because really - I 'knew' a lot of the attendees. But it quickly got to be too much. Walking in to a crowded Ballroom again and again - all alone... looking for a single space to invite myself into. Whether at meals or for sessions, I walked alone and it didn't take long before I felt not a part... I could feel myself reaching for and putting on an old mask... feeling myself resorting to faking my way through (and right when I was sitting next to Emily Freeman, no less! Yeah - because God is funny like that with me!)
So instead of giving in to that, I spent time in the Prayer Room. I prayed on my own and through out the room... I lingered over journals and wrote messages and prayed over names - some I knew, and some I had no clue... even as I type this I see now - maybe in all my feeling not a part, my call was behind the scenes in prayer and this makes so much sense now - the drawing toward and tears whenever Nasreen would speak of coming alongside and helping others reach their dreams!
I had my Honey with me and while he was wonderful and understanding, supportive and a refuge of sorts... if I am honest, he was also an excuse and a retreat. I hadn't really thought it through but having him with me meant that I did not have roommates to get to know... no late night talks or bonding over tight quarters and sleeping arrangements... it also meant I had no one to enter a room with. (and if I go again... I will rethink this.)
I'm a grown up. This should not be so hard and I was honestly surprised at how difficult it really was on me. In the moments when it would begin to feel too heavy... like it was just too much... I would hear the Lord speak to my heart:
"I didn't bring you all this way so that you could be Recognized... but so that you would know that you are Known."
Is this not the message that was woven through out the conference and while I don't normally battle these kinds of feelings, when I would find myself near the edge of a break down... He would give me a gift... send me a friend... reassure me that at least to Him, I was seen...
In all my shrinking back and feeling on the outside, He assured me that more than having a place at a table, He has given me (us!) a Voice to proclaim the Truth that the One who matters most, knows and loves us best!
He sees us and has called us to this world of blogging...
of living out loud and extending grace...
of Speaking Life, Being Love, and Shining On!
So - to wrap up my Allume experience feels a bit premature - for He is still unfolding things inside and outside of me... it's not easy because I so wanted to pour out and be a blessing... I found myself feeling quite unexpectedly needy and unsure. I had handfuls of conversations that blessed... and armfuls of friends that pulled me in, but it was not all sunshine and rainbows. Still - I cling to the power of prayer and the promises of God.
I pray I am the only one who didn't feel all warm and fuzzy but chances are in a room that big, the enemy couldn't have been focused only on me! So if you too found yourself falling for the lies that you didn't belong... you don't fit in... or it didn't make a difference if you were even there...
Rest assured - even if you didn't feel Recognized.... you ARE Known!
Oh yeah - and the WORSHIP, ya'll... oh my stars!? We could have gone on and on forever!!!
So what about you? Were you at Allume? What was your experience? Do you extroverts out there have any tips or tricks that will help us introverts in mastering entering a crowded room all on our own?