what I learned at the allume conference.

One of my biggest struggles is accepting the idea that God created me to be a writer. I think I question my calling to write even more than I question my ability to write, which is something I question constantly. At the root of all my fears and insecurities about writing lies this question:

Is writing the gift that God wants me to pursue with my life on earth?

As I understand it, we're all put here for a short time to live a life that is glorifying to Him in everything that we do. God gave us gifts and talents to use abundantly in His name, and we are supposed to use them, not hide them or be terrified of them.

At the Allume conference, I heard speaker after speaker get up on stage and say the same thing: God created you to be an artist. You were made to live art and to use your influence. You are where you are for such a time as this. Be generous. Be true. Share your gift with the world and see what God will do with it.

I heard those speakers confidently shatter lies that the enemy has whispered in my ears time and time again. I've listened to them for years now, and when I'm feeling extra weak, I believe them. I believe that I'm not meant to be a writer. I believe that I'm a fraud. I believe that real writers have book deals and contracts and the title of "author" attached to their name and that until I get there, I am just a nobody masquerading as a writer.

Logan quickly shattered that lie at dinner one night when she said, "There are no "justs" in the Kingdom."

How many times have we used that word? I'm just a mom. I'm just a blogger. I'm just a waitress. Just a _________.

There are no "justs" in the Kingdom. I've decided to remove "just" from my vocabulary altogether because that word, in that context, does not come from the Father. It comes from someone who is trying to destroy my significance, and hinder me from using my gifts.

***

I have a folder in my inbox called “don’t quit blogging” and inside of it are a bunch of e-mails I have received over the years from total strangers. They are some of the kindest, sweetest, most encouraging words I have ever read about my writing. Do you know what’s truly amazing about those e-mails? Over half of them start like this:

I felt moved to write you a note tonight…

I felt called to tell you this….

I guess I am writing to you because I just felt a need to…..

As grateful as I am to the people who wrote those e-mails, I am grateful to God even more because I know He is the one who placed the desire on those hearts to draft those e-mails and hit send in the first place. Every time I want to quit this blog, an encouraging e-mail pops up in my inbox from someone I've never even met. I would say the timing is uncanny but the truth is the timing is God’s.

For the first time since I've been saving those e-mails, I read all of them in one sitting at an underground coffee shop in Greenville, South Carolina. I let the words settle. They lingered on the screen, sinking into my soul little by little, wrapping me in affirmation.

I allowed myself to be completely affirmed, a feeling I knowingly fight more often than accept.

I felt my heart untangling and words being set free and for the first time since I've been writing here, I wasn't scared of it anymore. I let the words from Allume join the words from the e-mails and together they reinforced the truth that I've always doubted: He is calling me to write.

***

This has never been a "faith-based blog" but maybe now is the time to clarify: this blog is based on my faith.

And by that I mean, every single word you read here---whether it's about marriage or motherhood or friendship or what I ate for dinner last night---is funneled through the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

It is my greatest desire to take all that love and all that grace and share it with you through my storytelling.

Suddenly I feel completely free writing here. This is where I am supposed to write. I feel free saying the words, "I am a writer" and "I write a blog", with no other justification or attempts to validate the title. This is the space I have been given to use and even though it's small and it's not a book, that doesn't make these words any less relevant or any less useful to the people who read them.

This blog is my living room, and you my friends, my readers, are always welcome here. So let's put our feet up and make popcorn and encourage each other every week until blogging goes out of style or we're too old to operate Wordpress.

Amen?

Writing for you, still.

Ashlee