Four months ago today I was driving through Yellowstone National Park with my husband Craig and our dog Lilly.
We had just sold or given away about one third of our belongings, and we packed up the rest of the stuff we had accumulated in thirty-one years of marriage and moved from Vancouver, Washington to Louisville, Kentucky. It was a scary move to leave our beloved Pacific Northwest and move to a new part of the country where we didn’t know a soul other than my husband’s new co-workers. I thought my life had been turned upside down.
Until I went to the Storyline Conference this weekend.
It seems that God tends to work this way in my life. Things become unsettled and topsy-turvy, and just when I think I am settling in and getting used to it, my upside-down is turned upside-down. And that is what happened this weekend. My brain and heart are so full that I have a conference hangover, but I will try to convey at least a couple of coherent thoughts.
It started with meeting (in real life) three women that I met on twitter. Yes, sometimes I meet total strangers from the internet and we become lifelong friends. If you know me at all, you know this is not unusual. And the weekend continued like that. I think Storyline has such a unique attendence because every single person is there to learn what it means to dream, to love, and to live a better story. At every turn you meet people who are open and challenged and ready to share their heart – sitting next to you in the auditorium, eating lunch with you at the table in the common area, standing in line in the bathroom. @cha-bare tweeted it perfectly –
Storyline feels like what I suspect heaven will be: a place wide open and close where there are no strangers and love rules #storylineconf
I attended the Storyline Conference in 2014, and since that time my life has never been the same. I’ve been wrecked, but in a good way. That is why I was open to move to Louisville.
But this Storyline was exponentially deeper for me. The speakers were extraordinarily vulnerable. Photographer Jeremy Cowart did an amazing multi-media presentation about how his life transitioned from “I Can’t” as a kid who felt like a failure and tested in the 5-15 percentile to “I Can Do All Things Through Christ” and became a well-known photographer. As he told his story and shared his humanitarian efforts, I was weeping in my seat. I have found my new favorite human. You can watch his presentation on Vimeo.
And then after that (I mean like MINUTES after that), when my tears were barely dry, we heard the beautiful story of two best friends who walked the Way of St James in Spain, the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago. I guess I shouldn’t say walked, because one of the friends has a degenerative neurological disorder, and his friend PUSHED him 500 miles across Spain. Please watch the trailer for their upcoming documentary, “I’ll Push You“. It was such and inspiring story of brotherly love and perseverence.
I am not sure that I had one tear left after these two stories.
Another presentation that tore at my heart was Miles Adcox from Onsite, a renowned counseling center that offers intense experiential counseling workshops. He did an exercise in openness with his brother – his real brother – in front of the whole audience. Not staged or scripted, this intimate exchange with two brothers working on repairing their relationship and speaking hard truths to each other in front of an audience of 2,000 people was raw and real and it tore my heart wide open. It was such a great reminder to not let important things go unsaid, and how it is especially difficult with our own families.
There were so many other speakers and teachings that spoke to me. Of course the whole Storyline process, which I have been living for the past year and a half, was written on my heart in a fresh and deeper way. Author Allison Vesterfeldt helped writers find their voice, and encouraged us that it is not about how many followers you have on Twitter or IG, or how many blog views you have. My favorite quotes from her session were:
Finding your voice is less about finding your voice than it is about finding yourself.
Write to change one person’s life, and you will change the world.
The place you have to go to find your voice is probably the place you don’t want to go. Sometimes the suffering, more than the healing, is the catalyst for transformation in our lives. The suffering will whisper you secrets if you let it.
She then lead us in an exercise to find our voice. Writing “I am From” was an enlightening exercise for me, and helped me remember who I am at the core.
There are so many other impacting moments, and I will write about them later.
I wish I could encourage you all to attend the Storyline Conference, but unfortunately, it was announced that this will be the last one. If you are interested in this process, you can find materials at storylineblog.com. I am beyond thankful for Donald Miller and his books, and for the whole Storyline process and materials. I can honestly say that my life would not be the same without the things I have learned. The stories they have told have changed my world, and are changing my world every day. And now my job is to use my story to change the world.