Allume 2014,  Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Writing and blogging

What if I’ve been telling my story all wrong? {takeaways from Allume 2014}

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I’m heading into my sixth year of blogging. Over the last three years of those six years, I’ve shifted away from a newsy family update site to focus on writing and telling my story. I’ve shed away layers and layers of my veneer, exposing the deepest and darkest parts of my heart. It’s been raw and authentic and vulnerable. And this is what you, my readers, have come to expect. At least, that’s what I think you expect.

But can I let you all in a little {big} secret? Sometimes I feel like I’m on a train that’s about to wreck and I can’t stop it. Over and over I hit the publish button and it’s become almost a compulsion to do so.

Must. share. the. words.

Must. go. deep.

Must. be. vulnerable.

Must. tell. my. story.

And then I lie awake at night wondering, What have I done? What am I doing? Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?

At Allume, Emily Wierenga said, “I’d been so focused on being heard that I’d forgotten what is was I was saying.”

And then she said, “The cost of finding your voice can be losing your soul.”

And I wonder if that’s what I’ve done.

When I go to someone else’s blog, I don’t want to hear about the latest recipe or DIY project or 10 tips to do this that or the other. I want to hear about that fight that they had with their husband or the moment that they wanted to quit being a mom. Because then *I* feel less alone in my mess.

And that’s what people tell me about this place. That they appreciate the vulnerable and the raw and that it meets them where they are.

But at what point does sharing become “too much information”? What should the the filters be? Where should the boundaries be set?

I find myself walking into real-life situations – church, small group, moms group, playdates. I feel invisible and unknown. Yet to share my story – face-to-face – is almost too much work. I want to tell people, “Can you just go spend 2 or 3 hours reading my blog and then come back and talk to me?” 

The more vulnerable I am in my online space the more disconnect I feel with the face-to-face interactions, because now I don’t know how to live any other way but raw and vulnerable and with all my mess hanging out. I’m afraid that the real-life people don’t know how to handle it. That maybe my life story is just too much to process. That maybe living this way isn’t normal – or even appropriate.

Then, there is the place where my story intersects with others. My family of origin. My husband. My son.

I know that my story matters, but so does their story. What if they aren’t ready to share it? Processing my own healing intersects with theirs, yet we are in different places along that path. In sharing my story, I’ve exposed parts of their story that maybe I shouldn’t have.

My words have hurt. And oh my, yes, they have helped. They have been received and loved and positively responded to by countless others…but they have still hurt.

And I don’t know what to do about that.

And then, what about the consent of my child? What about, not just his digital footprint (if that’s not terrifying enough to think about), but his emotional footprint? The countless words I’ve written about him in sharing my story – my nitty, gritty, motherhood story. How will they affect him in the days to come? Will he resent my sharing of a story that wasn’t mine to share?

All of my intentions have been in the right place, but are good intentions enough?

And so I look back at this peeling and exposing and very public emotional journey of healing and recovery from twenty-some years of hurts and all the words that swirl around in this space. It’s like a big, powerful ferry boat, charging through deep dark waters of pain and confusion to the tune of, “Tell your story. Your story matters. We need your story.” It is forging ahead onto this very important path to healing – for the destination of healing is important, and the journey to that destination is probably even more important.

But what about the wake – the ripples and waves and spray and foam that toss and tumble about from the path cut by the ferry on this journey of healing through telling my story?

It’s this compulsion – if only I write vulnerably enough and often enough, maybe I will feel more known and more understood. And maybe then I will find the healing I so crave. But over the past two years, I’ve felt more alone and isolated in my journey and hurt more people.

How can I be faithful in following God, listen to His calling, and forge ahead in my own journey – my own story – while still caring about, respecting, and honoring the wake?

How do I know when it’s a time to be silent instead of a time to speak?

Esther Havens, a humanitarian photographer, gave a session at Allume on how she has begun to see story differently in her line of work. How she stopped looking down on people in poverty and capturing their poverty on film for her own professional gain, and instead began to view her photography as a gift that she could give back to them – empowering them, and connecting her heart to their story.

The contrast that she showed, through some of these photographs, was stunning.

Pair what is with what can be
Ask what the NEED is
Get permission to tell their story
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Not for our gain but for THEIR gain

Through the speakers at Allume this year, my takeaway was this:

Heal first. Seek Christ and HIS redemption for the hard parts of your story. THEN, write, honoring those in the wake, respecting people’s stories instead of using them for your own personal gain.

I know I haven’t been doing this in my blogging.

Maybe, the shift in focus I need to find is in viewing my story differently. Maybe the focus should be less on the pain and the struggle and the storm and more on the empowering brightness of redemption and healing.

And when I take a snapshot of others? Be it my family of origin, my husband, my child, or a friend – perhaps I need to see their story more. Find ways to tell their story in more empowering ways. Or maybe not tell it at all.

Logan Wolfram said it this way:

“If you make a mess online, you best be prepared to clean it up online.”

I don’t know what this means for the future of this space.

But I can no longer not care about the wake left by telling my story.

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21 Comments

  • Mrs. H.

    Hey momma. This is such an important place to be! I will pray for you as you navigate it. And pray for moments, and words of redemption and grace. So good to see you.

  • sierravbrock

    Aprille, I LOVE this! I look forward to what you will write, how you will change the way in which you write, the abounding grace that you will be able to tell as a result of living the life God has given you! I am personally SO excited about this. I loved this post. A great reminder for me & you can count on me clicking on just about all of the posts you write from here on out. (I usually read what you write anyway!) 🙂

    • Aprille

      Thank you so much Sierra. It’s nice to know that people will be reading along. I have no idea what the future will be like for this blog but I am excited for it.

  • Dana Butler

    Aprille, these questions aren’t easy to stare down, to face head-on. But that’s what you’re doing. I’m so proud of you. This is brave, brave stuff, right here – to consider how you’ve been handling others’ stories and realize there may be a more loving way…. Just so beautiful, how you’re letting Him shape your heart, shape you as a writer and a human. Love you sister.

  • Becky Daye

    Beautifully said, my friend! I like the reminder that good intentions are not enough.
    Blogging has opened up this world of immediate response rather than marinating on words and letting them sit. I love the idea of honoring others through our words and finding ways for our words to be empowering. Great thoughts! Looking forward to what God continues to work in your heart.

  • stacy

    These are all very valid questions/ thoughts that need to be considered. Just make sure that whatever you decided, it is what YOU have decided based on what is best for you and your family, not based on what some speaker at a conference said. If real-life-people don’t know how to handle your ‘mess hanging out’ – love the way you put that 🙂 it doesn’t necessarily mean it is your fault. If people get hurt by what you say, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is fault with what you said.There could be, but there also could not be. 🙂 There are two sides to every coin. I find that in life, especially in certain types of churches, many people don’t want to deal with the real life messes, or they want to, but are afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of being seen as unspiritual and weak and looked down upon by people that they have been taught to respect. In church or out of church, sometimes things that people haven’t experienced themselves or aren’t familiar with, they just don’t understand and can be prone to judge. They are human too. Things like adrenal fatigue are seen as laziness and lack of willpower, when actually it was probably a very strong does of willpower that caused the adrenal fatigue to begin with. Things like child behavior problems, especially when their is no glaring disability or diagnosis, can be seen as bad parenting, when just the opposite is most likely true. We all need to be constantly evaluating our situations in life and changing as we see fit. Absolutely take a step back and decide for yourself what you want your blog to be. Decide what is best for your family and go for it! We’re all learning as we go. 🙂

    • Aprille

      Stacy: what wisdom here in your comment.

      I think that these are questions that I’ve actually been ruminating on for a while, well over a year now. So I don’t plan on changing the way I blog based on what a conference speaker said, but rather more on things I’ve been thinking through a lot lately.

      There is such a fine line between respecting others while you tell your story and becoming a people pleaser in your writing (and general living). I don’t know where those lines are for me yet. I think I spent the majority of my life being a people pleaser (see This Post for more on that), so for the last 2 years I’ve been really pushing back against that. But I wonder if I’ve gone to far in it all? Again, I don’t have the answers. And the last thing I want to do is to keep from saying what God wants me to say for sake of pleasing people, or TO say things that I shouldn’t for sake of pleasing people.

      As you mentioned, just because people get hurt doesn’t mean I’m at fault. The truth can hurt.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I really loved your comment.

  • Jamie S. Harper

    When I heard you ask that question after Esther’s session that day, I suspected you would come to this place. It is a hard yet beautiful place to be. I respect you in asking and attempting to answer these questions. That is one thing that Allume reminded me as well this year – to let the story marinate and soak and perhaps after I have savored it, I can better tell it. Too, there are times when you just need to tell it in the raw, here and now. I will be praying for you as you navigate these tender areas. <3 love to you!

    • Aprille

      “let the story marinate and soak and perhaps after I have savored it, I can better tell it”

      Yes…I love that! And thanks for sitting with me in that session! It was not at all what I expected but it was so thought-provoking that it really stuck with me, probably more than any other session!

  • kristenchasingblueskies

    “Heal first. Seek Christ and HIS redemption for the hard parts of your story. THEN, write, honoring those in the wake . . . ” Yep, this, *this* is the word I needed to hear. Thank you, Aprille. Praying for you (and all us writers) as we wrestle this out. Love you, friend. xo

  • Misty B

    I love so much about this post Aprille. I didn’t attend the session you are referring to, but have had similar thoughts in the past. I had to completely take a break from blogging for a long time to refresh and decide where I wanted to go with it, and even if the Lord still wanted me to blog. I think that is a side of blogging people don’t see.

    That being said, I think it is SO important for us to use our writing as ministry. I can talk to people in person, but may not be able to really share my thoughts as easily as I do through writing. Yes, it is important to be real with real people, but I also think we need to share our thoughts, and our feelings as writers in a way that can minister to others. For me, that is through my blog, for others it may be through a friendship, or as a speaker, or in a book. You write beautifully and I know the Lord can use your words to minister to others.

    Blogging also causes us to share things that maybe shouldn’t always be shared, or that maybe can be done more gently. I understand that concern. This is really hard, and I think it is very important to ask those we know if we can share their stories on our blog. Any time I write about marriage I have my husband read it first. I want to respect him. I don’t remember which speaker it was but they said their husband was upset because he learned something about them on her blog. I hope I never do that, but I can see how that could easily happen. I also think it is important to ask our kids permission before posting things to any social media platform. We need to respect those around us, and I think all bloggers struggle with that aspect.

    Prayers to you as you work through this. I look forward to reading what comes next 🙂

  • letwhylead

    Wow. SO much to think about here. I’m re-inspired to write with vulnerability AND perspective and to be gentle with others whose stories intersect mine. Thanks, Aprille. Best wishes in this journey!

  • wenbrunner@gmail.com

    “The more vulnerable I am in my online space the more disconnect I feel with the face-to-face interactions, because now I don’t know how to live any other way but raw and vulnerable..”

    Yes< yes. I understand.

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