Go: BlissDom ’12, and Keeping it Real

“Go,” He said, but He didn’t say what would happen if I went. He didn’t tell me that most of what I feared would come to pass, that I would be right about what would happen, that I’d want to faint, run, hide, that in the “Go” I would feel I couldn’t keep going. He didn’t tell me that I would be so vulnerable, that I would lose control over my own experience. He didn’t say how fragile I would feel walking out into real life and being real in it, even if it knocked me down.

He also didn’t say that I could do it. He didn’t pat me on the back and say, “You’ll get through this” or “you will be a smashing success” or that “go” would make me a popular person.

He just said He’d go with me. He wouldn’t leave me. He said that I wouldn’t really be alone, even if I had nothing in common with anyone else, even if I couldn’t open my mouth for shyness, even if everyone else paired off early and didn’t welcome interruptions.


I’ve moved my entire life. I was always on the outside, always the one looking in on previously-established relationships, wondering what it was like to have one of those. BlissDom was no different, even though I was a community leader. That status seemed to set me apart further. Many of the community leaders knew one another, and new attendees assumed I had a group already. I spent most of the weekend by myself, in spite of my attempts to interact with others.

But I was a Community Leader. I was supposed to look out for the girls wandering the halls. Nobody ever said who was supposed to look out for me. I sure wasn’t going to let on how lost I felt.

During my first session, I excitedly set up my “Photography” sign and waited for someone to come and sit with me. Four tables without community leaders filled up behind me, and not. one. person. came to my table.

I felt naked. Exposed. Mortified. Overlooked. I felt like a fool, sitting there swallowing tears, waiting for the floor to open up and swallow me. I wanted to bolt from the room, but the session had already begun.


I slipped into the full-length gold-and-glitter dress I hadn’t worn since my Connecticut wedding reception, still surprised that my body fit into it after it had carried and birthed and nursed two children. I put on brand new strappy heels, new black-beaded bling. I re-touched my makeup, fixing the marks my crying had left, re-tucked a strand of hair that had released itself from my clipped-back style.

I felt broken. I felt… beautiful.

Friday night was “Girl’s Night Out.” Joe Jonas and A Rascal Flatts concert, tickets for two free drinks, girls on the dance floor, and speakers turned up so loud a body couldn’t think. I stood alone near the bass boosters, just under the speaker so that the screaming sound went over my head. My whole being pulsed with the heavy beat; my heart changed its rhythm; an old, familiar ache washed over me.


“Don’t be a victim,” she’d said in another session. “You can choose.”

So I chose to be alone, pulled a Roman Holiday moment and slipped my shoes off beneath my dress, hid them in my black Lola bag, stole away by myself like Audrey Hepburn in Rome. My bare feet swished beneath the soft gold of my dress. I felt as if I was walking in Galadriel’s careful steps, seeking Frodo and the Ring.

My morning session followed me, and the quiet resolutions I’d made on the plane, a simple a Capella rendition of The Rainbow Connection. And laughter. Her laughter, the feel of her hands beneath my own, the Christmas lights surrounding the ice. “Push, push, left, right” – As if it had happened yesterday, I could hear the smile in her tone as she skated backward, pulling me on, teaching me how to live outside my too-careful self. She would have known how to dance, would have given me courage to do more than observe everyone else living.

I found marble, and sparkle, and solitude, put my bag down, wove in and out between the white columns, finding my way to the center of the Gazebo where I knelt, no longer running, and lived into the ache and memory that shadowed me.


Going, living, being human and being His – it’s not a recipe for a perfect existence. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever tried. It requires me to hold the things that are true about me instead of pushing them away, pretending to be someone – or something – else. It requires me to hold the things that are true about God, believing that no matter how my life plays out, He is still near and still good.

It means that I’m not going to be able to just “put on” my growth, that it will be real, and it will become part of my story, my own myth, the tale of the one God and a girl who believed He was who He said He was.

On In Around button

28 thoughts on “Go: BlissDom ’12, and Keeping it Real

  1. L.L. Barkat

    oh girl, I feel this… through your words, I feel it—the disappointment, the odd tension of beauty and not-beauty. And you know, yes… You are beautiful, and all gold to me.

  2. Sharon O

    wow. if I had been there I would have sat at your table and talked with you. This was a beautifully heart filled emotional writing. take care

  3. Joy @ Joy In This Journey

    How I wish I had known you were going to be there. I didn’t have a ticket, but I was at Opryland on Friday for a lunch meeting for World Vision bloggers. I didn’t find everyone I wanted to meet, and you would have been on my list had I known. :( I love your willingness to be so vulnerable, and I can relate to so much of the certain and uncertain, confident and lonely, caretaker and needy that you describe.

  4. Simply Darlene

    Oh miss Kelly, shall I say I am sorry for the time you had? I am. But for the beauty of Truth, to both be and to hold, was it all worth that part?

    Like Sharon O. said, had I been there I would have been at your table too… even if I didn’t know you. I know full-well what it is to be overlooked and alone so I would’ve sat with whomever was solo.


  5. Cindee Snider Re

    Kelly, thank you for raw truth, hard truth, beautiful, stretching, growing truth. We can’t put on our own growth, can we? It would be so easy…and so hollow. So we wait…in Him…where life is deep and penetrating and painful, and sometimes slow as growth emerges, takes root, and becomes “part of our story,” part of who we are, woven into the fiber of our soul till we are, one day, a glorious reflection of Him. Thank you for baring your heart. You’ve deeply touched mine.

  6. Shelly Miller

    This made me sad, not in a I feel sorry for you way, but in a I’m looking in a mirror way. And I can’t wait to meet you actually in RL soon. Your heart and talent are a gift to behold and cherish. And your being honest here Kelly, it gives me courage too. Thank you.

  7. Jen LC

    YES. i was there and i was lonely and scared. even though i’m not shy by nature, i was nervous about going. however, the cold terror i felt walking into that big lobby surprised me. OH and i left a session in heaving, gulping sobs, not even sure what was happening, or why. that was friday afternoon. that night was a little easier and by saturday, i felt the way i wished i would have felt on thursday. next year will be better? that’s what i keep hearing.

  8. Erin

    I’m sad for you. And I wish I would have been there, because I would have sat with you and we could have changed your sign to “misfits” and laughed about it. But by yourself– it’s not funny.

    (((hugs))) Kelly. Next time skip the conference; buy a plane ticket to Des Moines and you can come over and hang out in your yoga pants. Way more comfy on every level :)

  9. Deb

    Kelly, I’m so sorry that the conference didn’t go the way as planned, but I’m so thankful that you are able and willing to be so open about your feelings. Sometimes things don’t go the way that we want them to, but oftentimes it is because the Lord has other plans for us to grow through. Sounds like you did! Big hugs! I’ve been there before!

  10. Stacey

    Oh, Kelly. It seems I’m not the oly one to understand your feeling, but I feel as if only I could possibly grasp what you mean. But I know I don’t. I couldn’t. Your experience was yours, and I probably would have been in another corner. Or probably, I would have forced myself, and wished I had taken the quiet. I don’t know. It’s all speculation isn’t it? What I do know is my heart went out to you as I read this for I get it as best I can. I am proud of you. For going, for staying, for leaving. Yes, for being you.

  11. Megan Willome

    I’m just heartbroken, yet so glad that you shared.

    You had me at that first sentence. No, He doesn’t give any guarantees, does He?

    I did a “go” on part of my spiritual journey this weekend, and I ended up crying in a big ole’ room, too, everyone else paired up.

    You in the gold dress. I wish someone had taken a picture of that. Maybe when you weren’t watching. Maybe with that gorgeous Kelly effect, showing the Light that never leaves you.

  12. kingfisher

    Oh, Kelly,
    How alone and neglected you must have felt! I’m so sorry. That was a hard place to be in. I always seemed to feel all alone when I went to conferences. Like everybody else was having such a great time, but had no time or awareness to “include” me in their little gatherings of talking to one another. I’m amazed at your willingness to expose your vulnerable feelings. We usually tend to keep those hidden because somehow, we’ve gathered that Christians aren’t supposed to “feel that way”. Thanks for your honesty. Thank you for your willingness to choose to be alone. And to choose to share your feelings with us.

    I do believe if we fit in, blended in, to too many situations, if we had many friends that we could be ourselves with and say whatever was in our hearts without being afraid someone was disapproving of us, we might not turn as desperately, as completely, to God our Savior. How fortunate we are, that we can pour out our hearts to him. Aloneness is a gift to call us to keep turning to our Lord and Savior. The humiliation of feeling “not wanted or noticed” must needs send us scrambling to him, even in those times when we are unsure of even his reception of us. Humiliation and not feeling wanted are deaths to the ego, and Jesus did say to die to self so we could live in him.

    I’m glad you ran straight into his arms. And that you made the choice to receive the gift of being lonely in a crowd. I just read an article that says we don’t “ask Jesus into our lives”, that what he wants is for us to ask ourselves into his ongoing life and kingdom.

    God bless you today.

  13. davis

    what a good story!
    it’s very true, you know…we always have a choice, a beautiful wonderful choice.

  14. Nancy

    I’m glad you wrote about this. I think it hits home with more of us than you can probably even imagine. (Except I’m sure few of us would have looked quite as stunning in gold)

    I remember feeling so welcomed at Laity Lodge–by you among so many others. I went to another writing conference and, well if I hadn’t know exactly two women who were going to be there, I likely would have turned around and headed home.

    He is still near and He is good. I’m staking my life on this.

  15. Anna

    There is something so horrible and cry making and knot in your stomach about times like that. I have so had them and it seems others of us have too. I don’t believe it always has to be like it. What is grace except by definition ‘unmerited favour’ and I do believe that God wants to bless us undeserved just based on what Jesus has done to qualify us. But that takes a change for me in what I expect.
    I do remember one church conference event experience where the heavy drinking started and it’s always the
    drinking I hate. Normally I’d have sat it out willing it to end but that time I just walked out and went to bed. And I was struck by the way Jesus is unfailingly the best and ultimate companion always wooing me like in Hos 2, finding ways to capture my attention and spend time with me.

  16. Megan

    How poignant! We have already talked about this a little, but I didn’t realize nobody sat at your table at the first session. :( I was IN that session and if I had seen that, I would have sat by you. It may make no difference at this point, but I know at least 3 of us were utterly confused as to what the signs meant and if we were allowed to sit there or they were saved for someone! Here’s to being clueless newbies and making it through it! By the way, you are beautiful, kind, and your writing is AMAZING! I’m glad I stopped by your blog because I can see how strong you really are. :-) Hugs!

  17. patty

    kelly, i am so sorry… for me, it’s true… i assumed you had responsibilities and meetings and people. i wish you had just stuck with me! i had 2 IRL friends from home with me, and a blogger i’d met last year. the night your were so beautiful in gold (you were!), after i left you, i thought-she’s not with anyone, but you disappeared so quickly. i walked the floor and looked for you 3 times to invite you back. i should have texted you. (we could have taken our own photo walk!)

    my first year, last year, i felt so similar-but i had my IRL friend, who had encouraged me to go in the first place, nearby and a roommate who was also a first timer. you were brave! and in those sessions i saw you, i thought you were so knowledgable.

    i wish they’d have early sessions with ya’ll, so that you all could bond and have each other to lean on.

    i am so glad i got the chance to meet you. i just wish it had been a better experience for you!


  18. Diana Trautwein

    …Oh yes, I’ve been there, too. And it hurts. But I am so glad that you felt beautiful – what a gift that is! Because you are, you know. And you chose to slide right on out of that big loud room and discovered that you’re not such bad company, are you? The rest of ’em don’t now what they’re missing. Thank you for writing about this so beautifully – and for being vulnerable enough to hit ‘post.’

  19. Dolly @ soulstops

    Thank you, Kelly, for being so brave and going because God told you, and for being so vulnerable here in your post…sending you a big hug, if that is okay…sometimes we follow God, and it is to the hard places, the painful places, but He is there with us …so proud of you!

  20. natalie

    Thank you for sharing this kind of post I really find that your really beautiful not only outside inside also..

  21. Cheryl Smith

    This is beautiful, raw, real story, very personal story, at its best. God will bless your going in ways you can’t imagine. And your telling.

    Love you, girl!

  22. Angie

    Very beautifully written Kelly, and at the same time, I’m sorry about your experience. I was there. In every single photography session. I was a newbie, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what the signs were for at first. I simply chose a seat where I thought I’d be most comfortable and and tried to chat it up with whoever was around. That being said, I had an awesome time chatting with you and Morgan after the microblogging (let’s just call it the Instagram)session. And you want to know what else? The sole reason that I didn’t go into the lunch on Saturday was that it was a sit down lunch and seeing how we were nearly 30 minutes late, I was sure that the 2 of you had someone holding a seat for you and I’d be left alone. Truth. So I headed up to my room and had leftovers from my 2 year old’s lunch. I didn’t know a single person IRL going into this conference and there were many times of anxiety for me as well … I would’ve been happy to hang out with you more.

  23. Lisa-Jo@thegypsymama

    Oh this makes me so sad. For the moments we had and that there weren’t more of them. Your outsides didn’t match these insides – you seemed so together and solid and safe in your own skin. You made me feel brave just sitting there next to you and laughing over long lines for breakfast and how to take a self portrait even if it costs you a back twinge.

    I thought you so lovely in person, Kelly. I’m so glad I got to meet you.

    I am glad for time spent with you.

  24. Denise @ Do you have that in my size???

    Oh Kelly, I have to echo what Megan said because I was in that session, too, and was so busy feeling out of place because I can’t keep aperture, f-stop, and ISO all straight that I didn’t look around to see if anyone else was feeling worse than me. I look at that beautiful shot you took of that amazing chandelier and I quake in awe because my little camera would never take that or perhaps it would if you were behind the viewfinder.

    I am so glad that I finally got to meet you Saturday night and now I’m even more sorry that we didn’t meet earlier because you’re a wonderful person and I think I would have learned more from you than from the photography session leaders whose lessons I couldn’t fully grasp.

    Can’t wait to read the next installment – your writing is as beautiful and compelling as your photographs!