On Belonging

I seek pattern and piece, and thread that pulls and binds and punctures us all and where the holes fill , pulling tight in the cinching of souls, and thoughts, and shared experiences. I am always seeking the woven things. The garments that cover our naked bits and warm cold spines and cast off singeing rays.

And so I love to gather small and deep. Because community does this for me.


The conversations where words hung holy and stirring in the humid air, the ceiling fans spinning them lazily and thick as warm milk, bolstered my soul.

Finally, I was surrounded by people who needed no convincing to live a bold and audacious faith.

It felt like home. Like I had found my people.

Because I don’t really care how many letters you have dripping off the end of your name, have never really cared whether you’ve single-handedly combatted all the evils in the world and had time to write a bunch of books about it or speak on pedestals high and towering over my head. I don’t really give a crap about your numbers or your likes or how tweetable you are. I don’t care if you’re just a mom, except to say I’ve never met a mom who is anything less than a superhero in the eyes of the children she loves.

But I do care that you showed up. I care that you look me in the eye instead of over my shoulder when you talk to me. I care that you admit you’ve failed as much as you’ve succeeded. I care that humility flows into your firm handshake and that your eyes crinkle at the corners when you smile genuine. I care that you serve the exact same God as me, and I care that we may do it very differently but we’re in this together.

So when she leaned into me and whispered, “I don’t want to feel like a third wheel, I don’t know if I was invited,” I brushed away her timidity easily. Because after all, we’re all just people, going to lunch, going to dinner, hanging out as cords strummed golden notes and voices rose together, erupting in laughter and grace. And wine is poured and passed and stories are told and this is communion. Right?

We’re all participants in this feast. But she left early anyway, and I never paused to wonder if she stood in a corner feeling out-of-place and smiling tentatively and wondering how long she should stay before she could leave without it seeming weird.

And I know some have long histories and roots further back when clacking keys made platforms easier and broader and they’re there in the light, a little more evident. I know the room or time for that intimacy to develop doesn’t just happen so I didn’t think anything of it. Of course some people are going to have a deeper connection, they started at the same time, walked the same road, lifted each other up along the way. Different measures are given to different people. So to me, size and metrics and platform have nothing to do with worth.

I just want to stay small,” Annie says. And I know she means it because she’s always pulling in those around her. Always making room for someone else’s voice no matter the shape.

And these voices are saying the same things. Or trying to. Whether we’re doing it on blogs, or in the boom and thunder of a microphone, or whispering it in the bedtime lullabies of littles tucked and heavy-lidded, or with feet planted on continents far where the red earth kicks up like blood soaked clouds under a sky that has seen it all, we all take our measurement and weight of glory.

We all step into grace the same way, undeserving and wretched.

And then I overheard the conversation, the sneering disdain for name-droppers and the people who tag Instagram shots with bigger people’s handles to make themselves seem in, when really they’re out. The ones whose tweets shout out trying to climb the ladder, using each other as footholds. And I understand someone feigning an intimacy that’s not deserved or not wanting to feel used when you’ve attained a bit of celebrity for what you do well, but what if names didn’t mean so much?

What if the only name that mattered was the one we can all agree on? And I wondered when it became wrong to seek connection with anyone no matter the size or sphere of influence, big or small, just because that person matters?

And I’ll admit right now, I posted a picture on Instagram and painstakingly tagged everyone in the room because I didn’t want anyone to feel their presence wasn’t appreciated and valued there. And maybe I put too much stake in these things and my  stupid INFJ skin is thinner than I ever knew before, easily pierced and tender at the bone but when the Instagrams and tweets showed up, I wondered if I had somehow crossed some invisible barrier. Because I had tagged everyone. Because  maybe it looked like name dropping? “Look at me, ma, I’m hanging with the cool kids?” And that made me feel invisible, like a pesky apparition hanging about in unwanted ways.

And it all seemed so flimsy.

The light of that conversation, I was probably never meant to hear, made shabby and worn the beauty I thought  I saw.

I spread myself across my hotel bed that night, as the clock ticked into morning and wondered if people would think I was name dropping bigger, better, names than my own, as if trying to build a platform I had long since laid down.

And by God, I cared. I cared that people might think that of me. And so I deleted that picture with all the tags. Wiped it clean and tried to shoo away my very presence.

But nothing on the internet is every really gone and I felt silly it had been out there.

I was 10 years old again, hoping I would get the pink party invitation envelope that held the promise of friendship and belonging, doing my best not to seem too anxious. The one that everyone else got except me.

And maybe this is the tilted lens by which I see, maybe I look through cracks and everything slants, and belonging always feels a bit elusive.

No one wants to be used, and I can imagine it’s hard to be big, and not feel that everyone around you wanted something other than you.

But it made everything unravel for me. The woven thread, hanging limp and torn.

Peter Greer said to have a healthy distrust of your own motives.

That stuck with me because I know the deceitfulness of my heart and the way she’s lied to me, lulled me, kept me silent and wanting. Made me feel outside and other. And so I combed my way back, wading through memories of driving rain, soaked and shivering in the pew, after the monsoon lunch we were caught in. I traced my way through the days of Idea Camp and each intersection of humanity along the way.

Monsoon at lunch

I thought of ways I might be contributing to the separating lines of who is in and who isn’t. And I remembered walking down the street toward the parking garage on my way to dinner after Idea Camp had come to a close and I was already placing down memories and writing posts in my mind.

I remember she was walking ahead of us, slightly to the right and I had chatted with her briefly earlier in the day. She had her head down until I came close and she looked up and our eyes caught for a second while I flashed her my warm smile. And then I looked away and kept walking, caught up in my conversation.

I know I am not the savior of all the lost people. I know. But I sensed she was alone.

I sensed she was standing around as things wound down waiting for someone to notice her. I sensed she had given up and was walking back to wherever alone, an empty hotel room, a table for one somewhere, or a greasy fast food bag sitting shotgun in her rental car? She was right there as we were all gathering for dinner. I know she overhead the chatter about what restaurant and where and who was driving with whom and I never said anything at all.

But I knew. Because, I had been that girl, in the corner, hair swooped down like a covering, hiding crimson cheeks under shame filled eyes, smiling bravely and withering inside, knowing that I could never, would never belong. Knowing I would never be whole and fit my broken pieces into something that mattered. Someone who was seen and known and loved anyway.

And I hadn’t even realized it until I overhead that conversation that so solidly drew the dividing line, maybe it’s because I wanted to fit also and my place was precarious, because I am small and unknown. Because I’m still haunted by that girl, the ghost carrying chains of shame and loneliness rattling in my bones.

I wanted to have the conversations and talk about the things I care about with the voices I admire not because I wanted to be bigger, but because I wanted to belong. To feel the kinship and comraderie of writers who craft sentences with perfection, and tell my own story with their words.  And I was too afraid of my own place to invite and fend for someone else. Or better yet, lose my place and choose to go with the one who was alone.

So there you have it. All this talk about human care and at the core of it all, I saw someone alone and lonely and I did nothing. I didn’t want to lose my place.




I am counting on the relative anonymity of this blog space and hoping that if anyone reads this, you will know that it is my journey, my struggle, my own wrestling with flesh and calling. I don’t believe it’s my job to meet everyone’s needs but I do wrestle with seeing someone longing for connection and moving past them.

I pray for grace in the reading, as you might feel this is about any one of you. It is not.

It’s about me and learning to tell the truth, even if it makes me look like an ass. Which this post kind of does. So there you have it. I read this post by Sarah Bessey today and felt the itchy finger burn of words that needed to be written.

I’m in process and learning too. Trying to do things better in light of his glorious grace while struggling under the weight of this broken world.

I also want to make sure to preface this conversation with the fact that the VAST majority of Idea Camp was inspiring and beautiful and  now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, in a cathartic blog dump, I’ll be free to write about some of the beauty and grace abundant during my time in Austin. The dregs that came out were/are things God is at work in my life and has been for some time. These are the ramblings of that journey to belonging and not a reflection of the actual attendants present in Austin.

Linking with the beautiful community at


  1. says

    Alia. You have me crying. Just last week I was on the opposite side of the line cursing the names of the bigger bloggers, angry with them for not having the time to reach out to us littles, for not having the time to nurture connections. I told friends that I didn’t want to even bother trying to talk to bigger names at allume, because “what was the point”? They wouldn’t remember me. They wouldn’t want to be my friend. I didn’t want to be that drooling fan, crying because OMG she just hugged me!! I was angry at myself for wanting and seeking their approval and acceptance. It never occurred to me until now that they might be looking across the line at us littles and be angry at us for “name dropping” for wanting do desperately to connect and belong. It was Tonya who spoke truth to my heart thru my anger and hurt. She reminded me that past pains had made this need for acceptance so strong in me. She made me cry but she helped me heal and set aside the frustration and the malice. This post needs to be read Alia. Praying for all of us, regardless of size, that we would see each other not as big or small or influential or inconsequential, but see each other as beloved daughters of one King.

    • says

      All just daughters of the King. So much amen. All with messy hair and muffin tops we try to hide in beautifully, just so draped tops. All with worry and insecurity and working hard at fitting into groups, and conferences and our own skin. All just wondering if we might find a new friend and hold her hand and tell her the stories of our son who yelled and refused to get on the school bus and made us so embarrassed and so mad and so confused about being a grown up. Yes, all just sisters who need each other. So. Very. Much. You are on my list of people to meet at Allume, Vanessa.

        • Alia Joy says

          Yes, and amen. What these beautiful ladies said. I can see it from both sides. There’s a commonality we often forget in just being ourselves. I don’t ever want to seek someone out because of what they can do for me because no one wants to be used. But I totally understand seeking someone out for what they mean to me with completely open hands. There are some amazing women who happen to be big bloggers that have inspired and touched my life in such meaningful ways and connecting with them has been such a blessing to me. Like these two above me right here. These gals speak truth into it all and make me brave. Love you guys.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks for reminding me it’s ok and needed. I think I’ve skirted around the truth of things a bit much at times for the sake of grace and love and maybe got a bit lax in telling the truth when it’s not pretty.

  2. says

    Alia, I read Sarah’s post via the link in yours and I have to agree with so much of what she said. JT is the one and only blogging/writing event I’ve ever attended. It was small and intimate and just what I needed. I look at the plethora of conference options out there and my head spins and my pocketbook screams…there’s just no way. If that’s what it takes to be on the inside track, I’ll never be on it.
    Then I remember the words of Jesus, that the humble He lifts up in due time, but He opposes the proud. So, I just plug away trying to be faithful and obedient with the sphere of influence He has given me, and trusting Him with the results.
    You, my friend, have the gift, the talent, the voice to be one of the big ones. That’s not flattery, that’s truth.
    When I was a young wife and mama the Lord spoke very clearly to me that if I would be faithful to walk obediently through the humble doors of service He opened for me, that later on He would open up big doors of opportunity for me. I’ve found that to be true, maybe not here in the online world, but in our ministry I’ve been blessed with amazing opportunities. But, the greatest thing I’ve ever done, the most rewarding of all, raising three Jesus loving, world changing girls.
    You, my friend, are a world changer, too. Keep that humble spirit, that kind heart, and God will open wide the right doors.

    • Alia Joy says

      Elizabeth, I see the way you love God’s word, and the way you come alongside and encourage other women. I see the way you lift people up without asking anything in return. I just want to say what a blessing you are to me. All the time, you speak with wisdom and grace, right at moments I doubt. So thank you, friend. I don’t know what God holds but as I find myself stepping back from things and resting, I know I am in the right place. It’s all in his time. I hate the striving and the platform building and all of the other things I thought came with blogging. It was #jtreat and a conversation with Deidra that convinced me I wasn’t being unfaithful to let all that stuff go. I didn’t have to strive to be faithful, I could just rest. That was the turning point for this blog. And yes, my stats dove. But then I turned them off and voila, freedom.I feel God’s pleasure when I write, even if I never publish a word.I know God has me. I know.

  3. says

    Thank you for being real! For some people you ARE that “bigger” blogger, because for every one of us who is at a certain place on the continuum, someone else is behind us. Lots of people get a charge out of leaving people out, because if everyone would get “in” there wouldn’t be anything special about it, right? The difference is that you realized a lost opportunity, you recognized why you did it, you are grieving over it, and more than that, you are willing to write a blog post about it and be real. I cannot tell you how much I love that! Truly. I’ve been that girl hiding her blush behind her hair and pretending that she has somewhere to go, because the people around her seem to have forgotten that she was there. I think we all have at some point or another, and that experience either drives us to do the same thing and exclude so we can feel included, or it drives us to include as many people as possible. I want to be that second person. When you see me at Allume, feel free to remind me to look for the people standing or sitting alone so I can draw them in. And if I’m the one sitting alone, somebody please talk to me! ;-)

  4. says

    Geesh! That comment sounded so stinking perky and yet judgmental at the same time. The real reason I connected to much to your post is because I’ve done it too, and I wonder how many times I did it without even knowing. That grieves me. I don’t want to be that person. Not that I’m an insider by any means, but I don’t want anyone sitting alone because I know how wretched that can feel. That’s what I should have said. Lovely post and so necessary!

    • Alia Joy says

      No need to guard your words here, Kim. I get it. Yes, there are people all along the continuum of how far or how wide their audience may be, but I love that my twitter stream is filled with people with ginormous platforms and people with 10 followers. I love that. I love the (in)couraging writers group with people of every level realizing their voice matters. I love the community of women who get this. So yes, choose to be the one who leaves room at the table. Choose to be present and happy with the ones seated with you. Choose to value everyone, and if you’re ever looking around for someone else, let it not be the bigger name but the one who just needs an invitation to belong. Can’t wait to meet you, Kim.

  5. says

    Love your heart and am so very thankful we had the time to sit and talk.

    I know exactly what you mean about the desire for belonging and connection. It’s something I struggle with as well. There is always a tension in me of “will they like the REAL me?” The one that doesn’t sugarcoat my faith my struggles, my deepest fears. The one that doesn’t wear masks or artifice in a world full of look at me and what I am doing. I long that they see the light that came from the darkness and how I hope to humbly help others do the same and in seeking connection I want to know the truth of those that have walked that path before.

    Just know that for me, our talk was everything I needed right at that moment. It was truly holy.

    And, I want to write like you when I grow up :-)


    • Alia Joy says

      I loved our time as well. I’ve been thinking a lot about all we talked about. I remember sitting next to you at that dinner at Blissdom and I had been blogging for 6 weeks? Maybe. And I remember how friendly and inviting you were and so much of our conversation then just felt like we were picking up where we left off at Idea Camp. I am excited to see what God is going to do with the journey you’re on, because I believe it’s not in vain. It all gets used and transformed and redeemed in due time. Thankful for you, Lindsey.

  6. says

    This? Right here? Is why I love you.

    I see that plea for inclusion of all in your eyes … that hungering for human care, even when the least of these wears a different disguise than we thought. I love that it’s your heart-cry.

    We all belong to each other – yes, and those who “get” that, like you, do us all a favor by wrapping it in words. So much to think about here. Love this – and can I say it one more time? – LOVE YOU.

    • Alia Joy says

      That time at Jumping Tandem was such a gift. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like I was with a community of people so different in so many ways but supernaturally kindred. That was such a blessing and you are such a big part of it, Kelli. You know I majorly crush on your writing but mostly because I can always see your heart it in all and it’s splendid. Love you right back.

  7. says

    Lord have mercy. And again, Christ have mercy. Alia…I have been climbing in and out of these sorts of pits for years, vacillating between “I don’t care and it doesn’t matter” to “where is my piece and place”? The crack of dawn showed up in my heart and mind for these matters not long ago when God began to show me what I was missing: dimensional thinking. We are so freakin’ linear; point A to point B-type people and we miss somehow the INFINITE number of planes and dimensions God inhabits and takes us to. We get hung up thinking we need to move forward by our own means (piggybacking on Jesus) rather than stepping into the prism and operating out of God’s infinite light. I like you because you are you and let me be me and I don’t know what name we will agree on…maybe “His”?

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, let’s agree on His name. It’s the only one that will ever bind us all together. It’s the only one that makes all of this “stuff” of no importance at all. Because yes, I am me, and you are you and the rest is just messy business. What if we just let all that go and came with clean hands and pure hearts and sought to really love each other right where we are. I think that might just change the world.

  8. says

    You are known, in the most important ways, Alia. And I know you know that. I appreciate you sharing the struggle publicly.

    I can’t even begin to know where to start with this one, Alia. I have so much to say, that I wrote 55,000 words in a book about it … because this has been part of my struggle, resting in the approval of God, rather than the approval of people. I think we all struggle with this to some degree. At our core, the ache under our ribs is about wanting to belong. We can turn around to discover that, in fact, we do! Already. Right now. As is. Enough. We’re enough. And we’ve had enough of the not enoughs. Yes?

    I’m so done with the jockeying and the racing and the striving. I’m just done with it. I want to sit at the table I’m at, rather than pining to sit at another.

    Your heart? It’s just … beautiful. You mentor and guide and inspire me, my friend. Thank you for sitting at the table with me, for not looking over my shoulder, for looking me in the eye.

    We’re all in this together, amen? This is a reminder for me to always keep an empty seat at the table. Always.

    Thanks for letting me ramble. Hopefully, my book is less rambly. :)

    • Alia Joy says

      I’ve heard rumblings and I’m sure I’ll agree that your book is amazing. I already know. And thank you for always being a brave voice and going first and admitting that we don’t always feel like enough, even though it’s true that we are. It’s so needed. I said in an earlier comment, Jumping Tandem was the pivotal point and place God used to speak freedom into me about laying down all the platform building hype that was KILLING my soul. Seriously, I just could not any more. And it was then that I felt the nudge to release it all. It’s not always easy but I know that it’s right. I do what I love to do, write and connect and I’ll leave the rest up to Him. I have a huge hug waiting for you at Allume so I’m giving you fair warning.

  9. says

    Alia, I’m new here. Been enjoying your writing & gleaning your wisdom off & on for sometime. Something always draws me back & I think I just figured it out. You have a beautiful way of explaining what I am feeling or thinking. I have been the loner & I have been the one who noticed another & didn’t move. I have felt the shame of inaction but have excused my behavior by telling myself that “she probably wants to be alone”. Because, truthfully, sometimes that is exactly what I feel. I secretly long to be in community but fear the responsibility & maybe the effort. The risk of rejection. Of being misunderstood once again. But perhaps that other loner feels that way as well. Thank you for being so vulnerable. We are all on this path together. Learning & growing along the way. I am very much looking forward to meeting you at Allume.

    • Alia Joy says

      As an introvert who loves solitude, I get that. I kind of feel that you can never go wrong with a gentle invitation to belong. Last year I totally went up to people who were eating alone and asked them to join our group. Two were from Allume and ended up joining us and one was not, had no idea what I was talking about and obviously wanted to eat alone. Whoops. But it was worth it to meet those two ladies who happen to be amazing people.
      I’m never offended if someone asks me if I want to join in on something whilst introverting. ;) I can always politely decline and retreat back into my head. And sometimes I think that person pretending to text into their phone all by themselves in the corner is just longing for someone to notice them and risk being misunderstood for the sake of meeting them where they are.
      Yes, if you see me come say “hi.” I’d love to meet you.

  10. says

    I don’t even have the words for how comforting this is to read this – to so often come back and read your words. In some ways, it’s encouraging that someone I look to as “one of the bigger bloggers” is still wrestling with all this crap – it kind of gives me hope – not that I want you to be stuck in that mire. You know what I mean. And has someone who tagged a nuttella shot from Costco the other day with everyone I know from the FMF party crowd – just for fun, I’m suddenly hoping that no one was thinking, “oh, there she goes – that girl.” Sigh. I love that you embrace the whole truth so fiercely and completely, even when it’s hard and not pretty. Your grace with words gives me courage. You consistently turning to Him for your peace reminds me to do the same. You bless me friend.

    • Alia Joy says

      No way. Nutella shots are meant to be shared! Always. ;) I guess it’s all relative who is big and who isn’t. And that’s why the whole thing is kind of ludicrous to begin with. God gives different measures and audiences to different people and I’ve been just as spoken to by some really rough unedited 5 minute Friday posts done by bloggers who have virtually no platform or are just starting out as some of the polished blogs of the “pros.” So yes, I struggle with worth and belonging and believing I have a place in this very loud online world sometimes. And I guess that goes to show that size doesn’t matter. Sorry, I had to write that. I’ll be brave if you’ll be brave Rebekah. That’s why I’m so excited about the writers group. We are better together than alone.

  11. Meredith D says

    Oh beautiful Alia…
    I have been on the inside, and I have been on the outside.
    And I still yearn, though I know that just because people are known, they are JUST people, to be seen as significant by THEM.

    This is a wonderful, important post.
    Thank you for being brave and honest and transparent.

    • Alia Joy says

      I know. I’ve been both and it’s hard to remember that it’s all a mirage. Significance isn’t going to be seen completely this side of eternity. Only God really knows where we’re faithful and how we serve Him according to His will. I am preaching to myself, friend.

  12. says

    Oh gosh, Alia. I so get this. Every single word. Maybe it’s an INFJ thing but I’d gather it’s a more common plight than most people admit. Grateful for your courage in sharing this and looking forward to the next time our paths cross.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, the blessings and curses of the dreaded INFJ intuitive feelings and perceptions about ALL the things. But judging the comments and emails I’ve gotten over this, I’m guessing you’re right.

  13. says

    This voice you give… your words all bold and brave and trembling and shakey… this heart you have that is broken when you blow it and it beating hard and racing fast to fess up and stay clean and learn and not repeat… those eyes that see… really honestly SEE…

    This life you live out loud… I am all about that life.

    And I love you… this you know! (AKA… insert Gushing here!)

    “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” (You really is!)
    I see you… I hear you… I ‘get’ you…
    and because of who you are, I get to be me…
    and that is such a gift you give!

  14. says

    I am still munching on this slowly… turning it over in my brain… I think that there is something here that I need to know, that I need to hide in my heart but I haven’t figured out yet what it is that God wants me to get from this… so I just wanted to say that your honesty… it undoes me in the most messy and beautiful ways.

    • Alia Joy says

      Love you friend and I will shamelessly name drop you all over the place. Yup, unrepentant name dropping all over the place!

  15. says

    Alia, I’m always so blessed by your words and so thankful I got to meet you last year at Allume because that was me. Though I consider myself and extrovert, put me in a room with hundreds of amazing bloggers and I just become invisible. You though reached out and I remember seeing you just before I was leaving last year’s conference because I had to leave early and you were so sweet and said you were happy to meet me and gave me a hug and I didn’t feel quite so invisible as I left.We don’t always get it right but you have a beautiful heart wanting to see the lonely and make them feel that we all belong. Your words today, they are just what I need to hear. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you again at Allume.

    • Alia Joy says

      You weren’t invisible. I saw you and I know others did as well. And I am so glad I didn’t miss my chance to make you feel that. So glad. I look forward to seeing you again too!

  16. says

    Wow, this was a blessing to read. I usually have more than a handful of those moments at conferences (or in any large crowd, where it’s easy to get lost). Conferences are a mixed bag for me – extreme camaraderie mixed with extreme loneliness. And I feel like I should know how to join in, but I don’t want to push or overstep others’ boundaries (as I am, admittedly, quite fond of my own). I don’t know if you meant to capture that with this post, but I think that you did. I feel heard.

    • Alia Joy says

      I get what you’re saying. Yes, I totally feel that. I am always a mixed bag of emotions because I feel every nuance. It’s a hard balance to navigate at times but I’m glad you feel heard.

    • Alia Joy says

      I was truly honored to be among such great conversations and I’m not gonna lie, you and Amber are my literary crush couple. Half the time I don’t even comment because I just sit there like, damn. That was good. You guys and your words and your heart, will always be my people.

  17. says

    It’s been my judgement, from having lurked in many places for rather a long time, that the “in crowd” desperately needs a person who can ask hard questions without getting written off as a hater. I don’t know whether that’s you, but you’ve done a good thing here and I applaud you.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Josh. I don’t think I’m necessarily in but yes, these are always good questions to ask. And honestly, I was very wary of coming across as a hater or making anyone feel complicit in my feeling outside because in all honesty, almost everyone I met was incredibly hospitable and gracious. I just think we ALL have blind spots. I’m not even big and I did. So, like Peter said, it’s good to question our motives. It’s good to see how our communities might be more open and more inclusive on all levels, including gender and race and metrics. For all of us to present ourselves with clean hearts.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Tsh. I can say the same about your post today. My all time favorite of yours. I did the enneagram and I’m a 4w5 so now we obviously have to get together sometime and talk all about that. Because there aren’t enough people who geek out on this stuff.

  18. says

    This post is so thought provoking. I’m an introvert and the whole idea that I’m going to Allume is freaking me out. I love people, but large numbers make me uncomfortable. I’ve been working to process this whole idea of “bigger bloggers.”
    I will often tweet someone or send an email, knowing they probably won’t respond because, How can they with so many people doing the same thing I am? The part I struggle with is that I don’t do it to try to climb a ladder. I do it because what they say touches me, just like why my very small amount of readers contact me – because what I say will touch them from time to time.
    I often worry the “bigger bloggers” will think I’m out for personal gain, when I’m just out to encourage them, or share with others so that more can be encouraged by their words.
    I think it’s all a question of balance and searching deep to find our worth in Christ. Sometimes it’s about stepping back into the place we were all in before we started our journeys. The place of, “why?”
    Why did we start blogging in the first place? My answer is because I want to encourage others who need it. It’s not about anything else but ministry for me. Unfortunately, there are days i need to remind myself of that. It’s a fight of the flesh.
    Thanks for writing this…

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks for sharing your heart here, Jennifer. I’m an introvert too, one who loves deep connection on a small scale and then to go curl up by myself and process it all. So I get it. Totally.
      I think it might come down to what our expectations are. When I was hanging out with people, I never felt left out because I wasn’t as close as some of them, because I do think there is a natural comraderie that happens when you’ve been blogging longer and are bigger. They share the same struggles that a group of smaller bloggers might share with each other on a different level. So I totally get that.
      I think I began to question everything when it felt like there was this divide based on worth. Because that to me is a flat out lie. One I’ve believed and fight to master when I start to feel like nothing.
      So the conviction came when I looked at my own life and wondered if I put more value on me belonging with people I genuinely admire, even though I don’t want/need anything from them, or me being willing to sacrifice that kinship and seek out someone who really might need someone to come alongside them. I guess that’s where I need to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit, because only He can give me that prompting.

  19. says

    Seth used words above that I was thinking. I’m going to use them again anyway. You, Alia, make us feel like we are already your people. There is genuine love for our fallen humanity in every word you write. There is grace, dripping all over your conviction. And I am thrilled to be able to rub shoulders with you beautiful writers and bloggers, soon, at Allume, as we’re reminded that we’re all just dust blowing around in the wind – but together.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, can’t wait to meet you, Missy. I know you said not to reply but just so you know, I read your words and they meant so much to me. So much. You bless me.

  20. says

    I was glad to meet you at Idea Camp, Alia, and for our convos there. This is beautifully written, and as a fellow INFJ, I hear you. I’m so with you. Thanks for your vulnerability.

    • Alia Joy says

      INFJ’s unite! I loved all our time together too. Those conversations were so good and I’ll cherish them. And just so you know, you should always wear red. Always.

  21. says

    I love your honest heart…and all Sarah shared about her stuggles too …..it is in the heart of every woman ….that junior high girl wanting to be “in”. Seen….but as I continue to take these angsts to The Lord….these embarrassing thoughts of a grown woman stuck in Jr. High….He comes….this sound so lofty ….but the older I get …I truly want to be seen by Him first and foremost…to truly know I am heard by His Love…not that I have arrived…but oh He is so kind and gentle to walk us right into the middle of His heart of Love…may this Love swallow us up ….heal our hearts so we can love one another with this kind of grace and Love…thanks Alia for being brave and honest.

    • Alia Joy says

      I don’t think it’s lofty. I think you’re right. I am much more at home in my own skin and who I am in my 30′s than I ever was in my 20′s or heaven forbid my teens. I am growing into myself, I guess. And it’s always kind of shocking for me when out of nowhere those insecurities crop up because most of the time, I don’t carry them heavy with me. I struggle, yes, but most of the time I’m pretty content with how God made me. I think the questions and feelings of not belonging had a lot to do with finding a place between being part and being pulled. I’m still not sure of the balance but it’s a tension I want to seek out. Thanks for sharing here, Ro. ;)

  22. says

    Alia, I read- it- all (confessions of a non-reader) and cried and cheered and got it. I actually read through most of your comments also.

    You blogging ladies are amazing. Never forget that YOUR word from God uniquely mirrors Him. There are so many “speaking” on the internet, why should anyone be listening to you? BECAUSE He asked you to speak! And He has perfectly placed a unique audience to hear what He is asking you to share.

    The sweetly vulnerable sentiments from the depths of your blogging heart, Alia, are shared among all women. Even those of us who “speak” through images alone and those who are in other games, all feel, at some time, all of what you shared. What an awesome God to give us His story of process and redemption and life change to share!

    I can’t wait to meet you all at Allume! I’ll be the one there who is just becoming a blog reader (though I’m making no promises) as I try to be better photographer blogger myself-and I don’t know ANY of you (except Logan) so I hope my ignorance of your “place” in the game will serve as a REFRESHING delight. I’ll be one of the ones with a camera and a “job” that will keep me from feeling the sting of “alone” but don’t let that fool ya-I’m expecting hugs from all of you as I experience my first Allume adventure!

    • Alia Joy says

      Amen! Well as a non-reader you get an award for slogging through this beast. I tend to write long and that can be daunting so bravo! I love that you’ll have no idea of my place and that you’ll be slinging a camera telling stories instead of words, we all make art and beauty through different lenses<—see what I did there? I love Logan and her heart for making it about PEOPLE and not platform and celebrity. I think God is doing big things and I’m so glad I had this reminder and heart check before Allume so I can go there free from all that mess. Can’t wait to meet you! And of course, the hugs. Bring it!

  23. says

    So my brave Alia…and it was this that got me…

    “So the conviction came when I looked at my own life and wondered if I put more value on me belonging with people I genuinely admire, EVEN THOUGH I DON’T WANT/NEED ANYTHING FROM THEM, or me being willing to sacrifice that kinship and seek out someone who really might need someone to come alongside them. I guess that’s where I need to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit, because only He can give me that prompting.”

    I am joining you in tuning in to the Spirit, that He would prick my heart in moments I am being called to lay down my own comfort and enjoyment to instead serve a hurting heart. And to trust He will multiply our willingness to kill self and consider others above ourselves. Thank you for being faithful to write from real, raw, and honest places…xo

    • Alia Joy says

      Love you, friend. Can’t wait to do this thing with you. God is moving and I know He’s going to show up. I can feel it. Love you so much. That is all.

  24. says

    Wow. And amen. I am continually learning from you, dear friend. How to pick up love and truth and lay down false and fear. I am right here with you…trying to navigate how to steward what’s been given, stop.the.danged.striving and just keep on loving. Thank you. I wish I could see you soon.

    • says

      I feel the same way about you, friend. So thankful for words and every day for #31days! I know. It’s 3 weeks till Allume and 4 till Africa so the world is moving at a crazy pace for me right now but I’d love to do a road trip to Portland when I get back and things settle. I’m do for a run to the Asian market anyhow. ;)

    • says

      You were a gift that weekend. I learned so much from you just being able to hang out and totally feel 100% loved and accepted. You do that for people, you know. That’s an amazing thing. Love you, friend. Can’t wait to see you guys again soon!

  25. says

    “To feel the kinship and comraderie of writers who craft sentences with perfection, and tell my own story with their words.” Isn’t this what drives so much of all this confusion? Writers whose words help our souls find their own. Who wouldn’t want to connect to that?!

    But you said it in your first reply here . . you can see it from “both sides” and I think that’s what we have to remember. We are ON both sides. We are the encouraged AND the encourager. The influenced AND the influencer. And we have responsibilities as both.

    And the bottom line is, we are all a bunch of asses. Paul said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (literally excrement), in order that I may gain Christ.” HE is the one worth knowing. If my connection to you or yours to me helps us come to know HIM, the head of this broken body of Christ, then it is worthy.

    AWESOME post, Alia! Thank you.

    (BTW, a book that is giving me incredible freedom in this is “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Tim Keller. Just forty-some potentially life-changing pages!)

    • says

      Ha! The bottom line<— asses. Sorry, just laughing so hard over that. I think that's so true, because some of those relationships help me see God in different ways because their words and lives are profound and needed. And that connection when someone's words resonate with you so deeply, that's hard to ignore. But yes, you're so right because we are both, influenced and influencing at different times. And I LOVE Tim Keller. I listen to his podcasts every morning. I've read The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness but I may read it again soon. His writing is so rich with wisdom I've read most of his books more than once.

  26. christywillard says

    This is me, too: “I had been that girl, in the corner, hair swooped down like a covering, hiding crimson cheeks under shame filled eyes, smiling bravely and withering inside, knowing that I could never, would never belong. Knowing I would never be whole and fit my broken pieces into something that mattered. Someone who was seen and known and loved anyway.” Tears.

    I’m learning to value myself no matter whether I’m included or not. But such an awful place to be in. I’m still there, fighting against myself. When the being left out is just a confirmation of what we “already know about ourselves” (that we don’t matter). Anyway, thank you for giving voice to this yucky place we have all been in. Thank you for vulnerably sharing that tension because we spend way too much time looking at the groups we are not in and forget about the ones we are already accepted and loved in.

    Christy @ A Heartening Life

    • says

      Oh yes Christy. I hate that we struggle so much with identity and belonging even when we know the truth, it’s so much easier to believe and feel the lies. It’s so easy to live as though we don’t really have a place or people but most of us do. If we look around, there is usually someone who could use a friend. Someone who loves us anyway. Someone we’re overlooking because we feel so much more validated if whatever group we feel on the fringes of invites us in. I know. But I’m learning to tell the truth about myself and in turn learn the truth about who I really belong to.

  27. says

    I can so hear my own messy approval seeking heart in this. That longing to belong.
    In reading this I found this gem that I just can’t shake from me: “‘I just want to stay small,’ Annie says. And I know she means it because she’s always pulling in those around her.
    Thinking on this. Small always has room for more. Small makes room for others. And then that question, could I let go of the achievement-seeking, the approval-seeking and ask God to make me small???

    • says

      Yes! I learned so much from Annie. She is the best kind of amazing. The humble generous kind. I love that small always has room for more. The more I release it all, the freer I feel. But it’s such a process of being stripped down and vulnerable. To say, I want to get out of the way so God actually shows, not me. I want to be faithful when it’s all said and done. Just that. I want to be able to present it all back to God and have none of it be clanging wasted breath or empty vanity.

  28. says

    Hey friend — love this. “I don’t want to feel like a 5th wheel.” Oh how I know the feeling. I was so sad when we didn’t have more time to visit in Austin. My time has been so rushed lately. Hoping to slow by the 15th. Would love to know your digested thoughts. My heart was so full and broken all at the same time when I left that Saturday. It was great to hug you in person.

    • says

      Oh my gosh, yes! I have so many thoughts, so much churning and processing from that time. I tend to process things very slowly, I still haven’t written about the Justice Conference and that was last February. So yeah, it takes me awhile. ;)

      Idea Camp was so rich and I feel like I’ll be writing from the overflow for months to come. I’ve barely written since I’ve been home because life is so busy but I want to try to take the time soon to get some of it down.

      I leave for Allume in 3 weeks and Africa in 4 weeks so the pace is speeding up as I prepare for my family while I’m gone and rush to get all the things in order that need doing. Have you written about Idea Camp yet? I’d love to read and compare notes!

  29. says

    I get this. I really do. Everything from the rejected past, wanting to be included, not extending the helping hand, and then to not be on the other side of the dividing line. It really is all so convoluted. We are messy people.

    Even tonight I read something about how bloggers needed to have a certain amount of influence, platform/reach, & social media involvement to be selected for a project and yet everyone was invited to apply without requirements. Why is it always this? I can see both sides, but we call the smaller side being faithful and obedient and the bigger side influence and leader. And then I thought…what if instead of focusing on the “bigger blogger” we just turned to the one next to us and listened to her?

    After 9 years of blogging, I’m heading to Allume for the third time and I’m nervous about fitting in. I haven’t been such an active blogger the last 1.5 years or shown my face on Twitter much. I feel every much on the outskirts of the Allume/blogging community. Even though it’s a place I know should be safe, I’m still nervous about fitting in or sitting at the wrong table or not knowing so-and-so’s connections.

    Anyways…I’ve rambled quite a bit. But thank you for writing this and being honest and open. It’s good to hear. And I’m looking forward to seeing you at Allume!

    • says

      Such a true statement: We are messy people. Amen!

      As for your second paragraph, we do that, don’t we? I’ve never really thought of it in those terms. But you’re so right. You’ve given me a lot to chew on. I do get that projects select the biggest voice, the one who gets the shares and the likes and the spread. I get it.

      But yeah, what about those small “faithful” ones? And don’t even get me started on the whole idea and concept of leader. I have a post in the works (ok, in my head) about leadership and platform.

      In all honesty, I’ve let so much of this blog go. It’s the season I’m in and I write when I can find the time but often it’s not there. And I see more prolific writers saying yes to opportunities I’m saying no to. And I think if this blog was the most important thing, I could push and strive and kill myself trying to build the platform but I know that’s not what God wants for me.

      So I’m learning to be ok right here and to listen to the gal sitting next to me and I hope that’s you if you can’t find the “right” table at Allume. ;)

      I’m hoping that we’re moving away from some of the who’s who and the so and so’s and into actual relationships with other humans instead. I think we are. I think there’s enough of us who care about trying.

      And now, I’m rambling back. I’ll see you at Allume! I can’t wait.

  30. says

    As a newbie in the blogging world, I so get this. Never been to a conference, but I can imagine the difficulty of being “the new girl on the block.” And dare I say, even a good #fmfparty can be intimidating? :) (Especially if you only started a twitter account because some blogging guru told you that you should, haha.) I’m learning so much, though, about finding myself in Him and seeing others through Him. He’s the equalizer, I guess. It’s so hard sometimes to let go of that fleshy part of us that wants the recognition of men (or women, in this case) and to be content with just knowing Him and He knowing us. That’s why I appreciate it so much when I see other faith bloggers getting real and raw. Thank you for your words.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, it can all be so overwhelming. I remember my first twitter party was so fast and I couldn’t keep up and it’s hard when you come into something and feel like you’re tweeting into the ether. It takes time to make relationships and it sometimes takes putting yourself out there and feeling alone. I always worry about that when the stream really gets going, that I’ll miss someone’s tweet and they’ll go away feeling ignored or unseen because I’ve been there too. But I also think that sometimes those times of feeling left out are purposed by God to reveal our need for Him. Our loneliness can be a place where God speaks into our lives, sometimes He uses other people, sometimes He uses solitude. Either way, it is hard. Welcome to this crazy blog world! Know that no matter what happens on twitter or anywhere else, He sees you. Always and forever, you are known.

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