Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Allume + the undoing


Heading over the mountains to Greenville for the Allume conference, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Striking out into uncharted territory, I was reminded a little of two other times in my life when I've stepped into the unknown: my move overseas to Kazakhstan in 2004, and my journey to Dutch L'Abri in late 2008.

In each of those international trips (and Russia in 2005, too, when I think about it), I was running headlong into adventure. But I was also just as much running away from what I looked around and saw my life as. In each of those seasons, I was in jobs that I had become bored with. My love life was in one case nonexistent, in the other, a wreck. And so, being unattached as I was, I had the freedom to GO. Far, far away, in the name of larger-purposed things.

And I'm so glad I did. I'm so glad, running away as I may have been, that I took the time to listen to the ache for more, the rejection of an ordinary, comfortable life.

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Anyway. So you'd think a 3 hour drive to a neighboring state for a conference shouldn't be as scary as an international trek, right?

Wrong.

Put me on an airplane to a faraway land any day, I say. So much easier than heading into a room full of several hundred women, so many of whom are much more accomplished when it comes to this writing thing (like seriously, some of them have real books and things). Especially as someone who far from self-identifies as a blogger (even though I am one), and sitting down to the first dinner, fumbling to answer when people asked what I blog about. Which I sort of figured out how to do, but not really. "It's kind of work in progress?" I say.

Isn't it always?
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When I found out that the conference theme was hospitality, I didn't have much of an idea of what to think other than admitting to myself that I don't seem to be in much of a season for hospitality, what with working full-time and having a one-year-old. So for a very fleeting moment, I wondered how much application I'd be able to take away.

But from the very first keynote, I couldn't have been more wrong. Like dead. wrong.

I'd recommend this conference to writers and non-writers alike. While there were sessions about the more technical aspects of blogging and writing, I was actually way more drawn to the ones that dealt with the heart matters, which I know will feed back into writing, too. Because so much of writing is a soul thing, isn't it?

Some of my favorite takeaways were:

1. We are a people who often prefer to reveal ourselves through glimpses. Picture someone peering into a window, only able to see what's visible through the panes. But true hospitality is opening the door, welcoming someone in to walk your halls and see around the corner to the deeper places of both your home, and of you. (from Logan)

2. Efficiency is not the goal. This one punched me right in the gut. Shauna Niequest gave her account of losing the best parts of herself in the name of doing more, better. She lost her softness and in place of herself, lived and executed life with the intensity and militance of a soldier. That is EXACTLY how I felt in the immediate years following J's accident. I lost my sweetness with the justification of keeping it all together and all that I had to do with caregiving and breadwinning. There was no room for fun anymore. So yeah, I was the girl sniffling at the table near the front during this talk (and I proceeded to cry about 17 times throughout that day), but I was so inspired to hear her speak of her process of transforming back to her real self. She summed it up by saying: "I did it, so I get to undo it." Hear hear to the undoing.

3. Several speakers I heard touched on the concept of practicing hospitality not just in our home spaces, but in our online spaces as well. Be it a blog or social media, I heard several things to drive to point the practice of being purposeful and present in life and in writing: How do I want people to feel? What will people do differently when they leave? What's the purpose for the reader and how does that fit in with the purpose for me? How can I make the spaces in my life more welcoming?

4. The idea—no, truth—that we are called to steward our God-given gifts. If I may be so bold to say that writing may be one of mine.

5. Extend hospitality to yourself. Nurture yourself as a mother would a child. Talk to yourself like a dear friend rather than an enemy. We can't offer authentic hospitality to others if we're not practicing it with ourselves first. (Leanna Tankersly)

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And there was so much more. So much more that I need to unpack, you know?

How thankful I am that I got to go. In a time in my life when feeling restless no longer means hopping on an airplane for a month or a year to a faraway place, what a comfort to know that I have an ever supportive husband who encourages me to take time, be it a few hours or a few days, for myself.

So I'll say this: my last takeaway—the overarching one—is that life sometimes gets so filled to the brim that it's hard to stop and take a breath. And so that's what much of this conference was for me: a deep exhale into things and places I've been neglecting for a while. I was refreshed and refocused. I was reminded and challenged that no matter my circumstances, that there is ALWAYS a place for hospitality. Always room, even if it means it's messy, and for me, I think that practicing hospitality is one of those little steps into that undoing I talked about above. Because when I stop and think about it, it feels like hospitality is exactly that. More of an undoing than a doing, you know? It's undoing ourselves out of our fears, our pride, our pain. It's unclenching our tight fist of control over our lives, saying ok to the imperfection, and with that release, making space for others at the table.

And sometimes, making space for ourselves, too.

12 comments:

  1. Well, hello, Katie who seems like a long lost friend :) I picked you out landing over at the Allume site (I live overseas and so was NOT there ;) and I am so glad that I did! All that early stuff about running away to far away places...that is my first missions/memoir-I-am-currently-writing journey and now I live in the second/I-hope-will-also-get-written season where I left reluctantly after I learned to land and be home...I love your story & your takeaways. I hope we can become friends...I am going to try to find you as many places as I can. And here's to that 'deep exhale into things and places I've been neglecting for a while...' you go girl. You will never, ever regret it! :)

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    1. Hi Abby! Thanks for stopping in. The conference was so, so great—I know they've already put all of the keynotes up on the Allume website. I would love to follow along on your journey, too...I'm always looking to live overseas vicariously through others! :)

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  2. Hi Katie, so nice to meet you at Allume. I hope you had a nice visit back to Greenville. I like your point #5 Extend Hospitality to yourself. I did not attend that session and it is always a good reminder since I tend to run on fumes a lot. I hope to meet you again either online or at Allume again one day.

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    1. Hi Mei! It was so nice to meet you, too. Glad I found a friendly face to sit next to on that first night!!!

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  3. "More of an undoing than a doing, you know? It's undoing ourselves out of our fears, our pride, our pain. It's unclenching our tight fist of control over our lives, saying ok to the imperfection, and with that release, making space for others at the table." YES Friend! Just yes! That release of perfection and undoing makes so much room in our lives for the invitation...when we can just be and love and not have to front something that we aren't. So much freedom there! I'm grateful that you took and chance and came...that the Lord met you and refreshed you...and that you found the sweetness of the online community in this space! Thankful that you're a part of my life and community girl! Heaps of love on you!

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    1. Logan, I can't thank you enough for inviting me! I can't wait to come back next year and hopefully bring a friend. Loved spending the weekend with you in your living room. :) xoxo!

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  4. I loved this post! I also felt like I was not in a season to be hospitable. But like you, I was wrong. I think no matter what season we are in, God wants us to be hospitable in our hearts. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Tiffany. So, so true! My schedule may be full and my house a disaaaaster, but my heart? Still room. :)

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  5. Hi Katie, it was a delight to meet you last week and hear some of your adventures in life. Great summary of the conference, thanks for reminding me of part of Leeana's message I need to remember!

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    1. Oh Christa, thank you for stopping by! It was so, SO nice to meet you. I loved the first night when you found out my blog name and asked me "So what does that name mean to you?" I'm still trying to figure out how to best answer that question, but thanks for making me think!

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  6. Great post, loved the honesty throughout it was beautiful!!

    www.hollandsreverie.blogspot.com

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