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Allume: Being Inspired by Other Women

October 21, 2015

Upper: Keynoter Austin Channing Brown; Lower: Hotel breakfast in Greenville, SC, including my favorite, glorious cheese grits!

My office sent me to Allume for business reasons–a women’s conference for bloggers, publishers, authors, speakers, and agents. But I got much more.

It was like a women’s spiritual retreat. On steroids. A girl’s weekend, but deeper. It was a spiritual reawakening to my faith that is sometimes just bedrock, but brought a reminder of my ultimate purpose in writing and even living. And even though at first I felt older than most with a not-orthodontic-perfect smile and more grandma than stylin’ in my wardrobe, in the end none of that truly mattered.

I met God again in women whose life and faith and even belief experiences were perhaps different than mine (i.e. I’m never called a “lady” at my church) but with a common denominator of deep faith in Christ and love for God. The pronouns we may use for God in our worship or even our writing may be different, our politics at varied places on a spectrum, but if we can’t look past and be enriched by differences, then our faith doesn’t do much for us.


Logan Wolfram

The key conference coordinator of Allume, Logan Wolfram, got things going by reflecting briefly on this past year’s traumatic and tragic turmoil around racial issues here in the U.S. and her home state of South Carolina. The Allume team chose an overall theme of “Together” and Logan was determined to nudge the Allume conference to wider diversity. She reminded us of a simple truism, “If you want to change the world, you have to change your world first.” She is author of the forthcoming Curious Faith from David C. Cook Publishers.

I was most moved and inspired by several powerful, pointed, and anointed African American women who addressed us, who you will hear more from in this blog in the future.


Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown spoke at an 8 a.m. (!) breakfast on Saturday morning and told her story of a three-day, life changing learning tour while in college through the deep south. The purpose was to learn first hand about why this country has the history it does around racial issues. As a busload of students (half white, half black) learned about: lynchings and the party barbecues that sometimes accompanied the “festivities;” slave babies swaddled in empty water troughs; and more, she reminded us we can distance ourselves from that past by saying “Well it wasn’t me or my family who kept or supported slavery—why keep bringing up the past?” or “Well, what about Hitler and the Jews?” She called for us as writers and bloggers to take steps to do something to work toward better racial understanding and reconciliation. (You can also be inspired by Austin’s whole speech right here along with several other main speakers. More to be posted later. Free!)

I was touched. Shouldn’t my blog calling itself “Finding Harmony” and venturing to share how more harmony can be achieved —deal more frequently with that very topic? You think? Look for new stories on this blog under a tab called “Racial Reconciliation.”

I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I want to continue a journey begun by my parents—even growing up on a farm near Goshen, Ind.—where there were whispers of unspoken laws which made it a sundown town. A sundown town was or is “any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it” according to Dan Shenk, who researched and wrote about the topic. He maintains that this kind of policy was operational for at least the first two thirds of the 20th century, or until about the time I would have come to awareness of such things in the 60s.


My home congregation in Goshen, Ind.

And all the while when I was living there we (I) thought Goshen was starkly white just because no blacks moved there. We were left to believe that racism was just a problem in the south.

Oh my. I’m grateful to my boss, to the planners of Allume, and most of all to the three women by whom I was most blown away, Austin (who I’ve already mentioned and linked to), Chrystal Evans Hurst, and Amena Brown, for lighting a fire under my butt to do something more with this space—and loyal readers—than share recipes, memories and cute grandkid pictures.

There’s lots more to unpack here than my grandma outfits and hairbrush.

It’s been a long time—a long time—since I was to a mostly-women’s conference of any kind. I hope I can share some of the inspiration and the gathered perspiration here, because I hope we all will benefit and grow closer to God’s call for our lives and understanding of others.


Where or how have you been recently inspired? I’d love to hear about it.

Do you have suggestions or leads for more stories as I journey this path?


Visit the links above for more on the women mentioned. 

  1. I felt your appreciation and inspiration as I read this post. In February I was invited to a writers’ retreat in Chincoteague, Virginia. It wasn’t billed as a spiritual experience, but it turned out to be that for me. When I have more time, I’ll check out the links. Anything we can do to bring about racial reconciliation I applaud.

    • I thought of you as I enjoyed Greenville–and met at least one blogger from Jacksonville. I was not aware that there are as many blogging groups and conferences and local get-togethers as there are. Any in Jacksonville? The spiritual food is an extra!

      • Blogging groups in Jacksonville with a spiritual component? I don’t know about any, but I need to find out. Spiritual food is always tempting.

  2. Robert Martin permalink

    Did you see your other fellow MennoNerd, Osheta Moore, there? I know you saw Austin… 🙂

    • Yes, I finally tracked her down on the last day. I should have mentioned the MennoNerd connection in this post …. ! But I will in a future one. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Athanasia permalink

    We just had our Ladies conference this past Saturday, church related not like the one you attended. We have one speaker, food, music supplied by the hosting church…that type of thing. Over by 2pm. So not a big production, but very worthwhile. Not sure why you can’t use the term “Ladies”? No one wears jeans either, as I see in the pictures.

    Have never heard of Allumme or the writers listed. I am glad you enjoyed your outing and your cheesey grits.

  4. A local or church sponsored conference brings the same kind of inspiration and welcome change in daily routine, for sure. I had never heard of Allume before, either, it is pretty much for writers, bloggers, authors, etc. It was like a professional development conference for me. I think people at my church don’t use “ladies” much because it tends to edge away from feeling as equal as men. I don’t think anyone objects to “ladies and gentlemen” as a polite way of talking, but sometimes “ladies” suggests a role where a woman would not be expected to speak up, have opinions, take charge, or be a leader. It can be a way of keeping women in certain “nice” roles. Have you heard this before??

    The speaker with jeans on made a point of telling us we could wear whatever we were comfortable in; so people wore a variety of clothing, some of it “hip” or younger.

    Thanks for sharing your comment!

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