Sometimes you simply have to get away from it all...

I just returned from my fourth installment of the Gay Christian Network conference. This year's theme: Oasis. It was a time for rest, renewal, and rejuvenation, all three of which I desperately needed. Granted, while I didn't get much physical rest (I only slept about 16 hours between Wednesday and Sunday), I did get plenty of emotional and spiritual rest. I went into conference feeling dried up and I came back feeling brought back to life.

Over the years, conference for me has become more about the relationships I build with people than about the busyness that takes place. It's about the meals, the conversations, the laughter and tears and silence that we share. This year, I had more of these three things than ever before. I let myself cry over my struggle of faith for the first time in weeks. I let myself queen out and be my most authentic self. I shared things about my relationship, my theology, and my life experience that I might otherwise have not shared with a different circle of people. I let myself talk with God and share my pain, heartache, brokenness, and cynicism.

...Conference is about being real, authentic, and vulnerable

It's about meeting people with whom one has much in common, finding solace in community, and being in a safe space where one can truly be oneself. This year I was able to do that more than I think I ever have been able to in previous, mostly because of my amazing roommates Ben, Bryan, and Kevin, as well as several other friends both old and new.

Conference this year helped me to feel more whole than I have in a while. It gave me a chance to stop putting on airs. I had a chance to volunteer in different capacities, neither of which I planned prior to going to conference. I helped with registration, and I sang with the choir. I ran errands. I had conversations. I offered directions. I did what I usually try to do in any situation: I helped. This is who I am. I find fulfillment in doing for others, even when they might not be able to do anything for me in return. But their non-reciprocation does  not mean I'm left empty or spent, because in helping them, I'm filled up. I soak up the blessing of doing for others, and it makes me feel whole again.

I don't have a lot to say about conference this year, not to the blogosphere at least. What I've needed to say has been to the people who helped make this a fantastic conference for me. The people who told me how much they appreciated my candid demeanor and open honesty about who I am and where I'm at in my life and faith journey. But whether or not I met you at conference this year, you had an impact. The gift of your presence made my oasis complete and effective. Without you there, it wouldn't have been as much of a blessing as it was. Without you, I wouldn't have been able to share my pain and brokenness, my joy, excitement, and passion. I wouldn't have been able to laugh as hard, to sing as loud, to sit as still, or to cry as openly. I wouldn't have been able to give as many hugs, an activity that makes me feel more human than I do most days. So to you I owe a debt of gratitude. You were the water that filled me up, the air that filled my lungs, the food that filled my spiritual and emotional belly. You beautiful child of the Creator helped make me whole again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.