On What Allume Was This Year For Me

Last year, I went to a conference called Allume for the first time.  It’s a weekend full of over 400 women who love God and also happen to blog.  I was scared to death.  I knew some women from the wild and wooly Internet, but I’d never met anyone in person.  And I was going to share a room with two of these random bloggers (women whom my husband may or may not have wondered aloud might kill me).

This year was different.  This year not only did I know several people from in real life, but a number of them had actually stayed at my home in April for the God-Sized Dream planning retreat.

This year also felt different because last year at this time God was about to kick off one of the craziest and most wonderful (but also busiest) years of my life, while this year God has been calling me to step back.  So I had no agenda other than to hang out with some girlfriends.

But I picked up some things over the weekend, some of which I’ll blog more about later because I’m only just now touching the surface of what I might do with these ideas:

1.  From our very first keynote Thursday night, Logan Wolfram set the tone that we are called to love neighbors and literally open the doors to our homes to welcome people.  I met two women who inspired me to buy a picnic table for our front yard and start monthly entertaining people who live on my street because up to this point I’ve been a pretty invisible neighbor and that’s just no way to live.

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2.  From the incredibly hospitable Shauna Niequist, we were charged to have people leave feeling better about themselves than they do about you.

3.  I received several confirmations that I am being called to a season of quiet, including from The Nester who reminded us that rest is not a reward for finishing.

4. The vivacious and hysterical Annie Downs had me captivated.  Despite my hesitation of how I can help the generation, Annie was adamant, The women behind you deserve you now!

5.  The author of the beautiful new book, Breathing Room, Leeana Tankersley, connected to all of us who hover on the brink of crashing during hard times.  She warns, If we’re not offering ourselves hospitality, then it’s difficult to authentically offer it to others. 

Most of all, Allume was about my girlfriends.  The people I love.  The people who get this crazy blogging thing and develop deep relationships over the vast ocean of the Internet.  My friend Delonna calls our pack her tribe, and I couldn’t put it any better.  This weekend was about uninterrupted time with these amazing women.

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The Space In Between

The fog settled around the mountains and the rain drizzled.

Despite the weather, the small plane lifted and bumped up beyond the clouds.

Sitting above the propeller, I heard little above the roar and stared out the window.

I sat there, captivated, in the space in between.

The space above the water and the land and the mountaintops.  The space through the clouds.  The space below the heavens.

The breathtaking, soul-stilling, space in between. 

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I had a lot of posts already half written for today.  After nine days away in the vastness of Alaska.  A post about our rainy fishing trip.  A post about what you discover in sleeplessness.  A number of posts from insight I picked up from the multiple books I read over long flights and airport waiting areas.  And yet when I sat down to write any number of them, and they will get written, all I heard in my head was the space in between.

It was more than the ventures over mountain ranges.  It was nine days away from home.  From my personal cell phone.  From my family.  From my daily job routine.  From my outside commitments and community.

It was space in between.  And I’ve learned a lot.  I am craving less.  Less on my calendar, more with my four people.  Less in my home, more space to breath.  Less frenzy, more quiet.  But I’m processing it all.

So I’ll have more.  I think.  We’ll see.

Monday’s Verdict: You Are The Best

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It’s Monday morning.

And I wanted you to hear this, first thing.

You are remarkable.  You are the best.  You are extraordinary.

They don’t know you.

Those “theys” out there that say the things that hurt your heart and wound your soul and threaten to derail you.

They do not know how smart you are.  They don’t get to see your wisdom, your humor, your life, your joy, your endurance, your commitment, your strength, your loyalty, your spectacular-ness.

You may have had “theys” detailing your deficiencies for years now or maybe you only just stumbled upon an attack upon your worth.

You may have “theys” from your family or your work or your ‘friends’ or your neighbors, but “they” do not know you.

We know you.

We would run out of adjectives telling you why and how you are the best.

But it’s Monday morning.  And I want you to know it.  I want you to believe it, deep down. 

So whatever pronouncements you walk around with today, walk around with that.  A knowledge that you are loved and appreciated and gifted and tremendous and beautiful and funny and interesting and insightful and capable and talented and really just the best.  Anything and everything else is just noise.

I hate that the attacks come.  In all shapes and sizes.  I hate that they make you doubt who you are and what you can do.

But we, the we who know you, do not doubt that you are the best for one single second.

 

*  I have had a sea of dear friends this past week walk in the shadow of criticism.  I know the shadow well.  I have walked under it and will again.  If you have been told anything that undervalues who you are, I hope that you will reject it this Monday morning and start fresh.  Don’t let that person or statements define you.  Defy their perception and keep going.  Be brave.  I’m praying for you this morning. 

The Bayou Boat

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It wasn’t an impressive boat when it was purchased in 1971.

All these decades later, it bore the scars of the hurricanes it survived and fishing trips it endured and children spotting alligators from its bow.

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The battered metal leaked a bit and the beams that ran the short distance between starboard and port displayed stains and dents and faded stickers.  The stern housed a small engine that had been replaced over the years with a bit more power but the cracked oars had survived.

We all piled into the aging hull as we do most weekends at the farm.  Littles in life jackets, men with fishing nets and poles, and women with bug spray and juice boxes.

As we eased out of Long Mary Marsh, the little boat picked up speed and the bow tipped up out of the water.  The chatter stopped and our breaths caught.  The wind blew our hair wildly and the water splattered up the sides.

I closed my eyes.  The wind rushed and water bounced.  I could have been on a yacht.  Except, I decided, this was better.

The blowing breezes cut the heat of the summer air and washed over us without any barrier.  The littles dipped their fingers into the bayou waters as the men warned of ‘gators nipping near.  We could explore small inlets and outlets and bayou fingers in a way impossible with a polished giant boat.  As the motor cut to enter no wake zones, we could hear every sound from the sparrows to the cicadas to the splash of the mullet.

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The tall marsh grasses swayed on either side as the water seeping into the grasses seeping into the sky made a seamless picture.  A landscape only a Heavenly Artist could have drawn.  A vision so spectacular that it stilled even the children.  Everyone exhaled.  The power of the bayou and untouched artistry surrounding us released the tension and hurry that normally arrest our city days.

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The bayou boat moved on.  The rows of lost cypress trees transformed into lush green richness dipping into the waters as we ventured out past the bridge.  The family patriarch steered on and shouted out to the son, our young family’s patriarch, where to boy?  He answered back, anywhere, because that was what we all felt.  Steer us anywhere.  Every turn brought more of the same – sounds and beauty and peace and an intimate connection to nature.

We went on that way for some time until we began to burn and the gas began to drain and the boat’s passengers reluctantly turned their faces toward the farm dock.

It is often the most battered and smallest boat that provides the rider the closest view of God.  No such spiritual experience could have been had wrapped in a fancy yacht, insulated by lacquered surroundings high above the water.

The age and scars of the boat only proved its worth.  It held long tenure in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast and survived to bring another generation of eyes out to the glory and greatness of the marsh grasses and pelicans and alligators and redfish and dead Cypress trees and crab traps.

Your vantage point may feel small or scarred or aged or inadequate, but it is through that lens that God can reveal His unfiltered beauty.

The Beauty of Bugs

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Bzzzzzz.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The concerto grew into a cacophony above my head.

From this tree to the next, six feet apart, they visited back and forth reveling in the pink blossoms.

The children played underneath unaffected by the panic that afflicted their mother.  They skipped rocks and raced bicycles and chased June bugs as the buzzing of the bees circled their heads.

I’ve never been a bug lover.

As a city dweller, my experience was comprised primarily of ants, roaches, and mosquitoes.  Ack. I am the cartoonish figure that goes running for help.

As my time in the country grows, I discover new things with each visit.

These days were particularly sweet as we celebrated Father’s Day and found some much-needed rest from the frenzy that had become our life back home.

During this long weekend, I found the beauty of bugs.

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I watched as my daughter’s voice filled with wonder and excitement over finding a fuzzy green caterpillar, “THIS LONG, MOMMY!!! COME SEE!”

I saw my sons trap any number of bugs – roly polys, lightning bugs, June bugs, and a few others I couldn’t name.  They found seashells and would cover the bugs up only to lift it and let them travel a little longer.  Those persistent bugs.  They just kept plodding to their destination regardless of the fact that five seconds later another seashell came clapping over their head.  The ladybugs climbed up their arms and were greeted with squeals of delight.  I watched those hard-working bees, which had been such a source of panic that I would be stung (despite my husband’s remonstrations that they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them), work all day flying between those blossoms living out their calling until night fell and they disappeared and an entirely new set of bugs arrived.

I saw the handiwork of God in the small wings and long ones.  In the polka dots and stripes.  In the steadfastness and creativity.

I will never clap my hands with delight when a roach comes scurrying across our Houston living room, but I can sit on the porch and watch the bugs work with more wonder and less worry.  And I’m grateful for the quiet when all you can hear is the bzzzzz broken only by the laughter of a child.