Friday, October 31, 2014

"I got fake eyelashes glued on a month ago for homecoming and they still won't come off. It's becoming a problem."

Great stories have great scenes. If I looked back at today I'll remember specific moments and scenes that made it special. It's a rarity that I get to see CILTies during the school year but when I can show up I try to make it happen. It worked out that Storyline ended on Friday and I didn't have to be to MI for the YL Summit till Saturday at noon--so I got to have a reunion with a group of fantastic girls. There are scenes that stand out from our short time together.

When I walked into Gaby's house I was greeted by her mom and dog at the front door. I had just said hello when I heard screaming and a stampede coming from the basement steps. Two seconds later I was attacked with hugs from Shannon, Gaby and Erin. After not seeing each other for far too long we were beyond excited to be reunited.

Gaby's very Italian father cooked dinner for all of us. We sat around the dining room table with Diet Coke centerpieces, a huge platter of pasta, a basket of bread and a giant bowl of italian salad. Kelly got the stringy cheese all over the place and Brenna ate a whole meal even though she'd just come from a XC pasta party. We laughed and told stories and passed around a bucket of Halloween candle after we'd cleaned our plates.

We went on an adventure together. A Taylor-Swift-blaring, packed-in-the-car, we're-all-in-the-same-place-at-the-same-time kind of adventure. We went to a pizza place and saw more friends and the girls shared an abandoned piece of pizza that they found and it was all sorts of funny and weird and great. I can still hear Shannon saying, "I LOVE the suburbs!" and being astounded that we didn't even have to parallel park.

Late that night I sat with Gaby, Shannon and Maggie on the couch downstairs. We had the kind of real conversation that we're so used to having at camp together in the Longhouse. We talked about the kind of decisions they and their friends are making and what is shaping what they think. We have different experiences and perspectives and backgrounds but everyone's ideas are valued and important. I got to see more of their hearts and share my own with them.

"We're not our failures or our successes. We are our love." Storyline Conference

Storyline Day Two was filled with possibly even more great take aways than Day One. I've put all my notes here by session and added some of my own thoughts. It's lengthy but full of spectacular content.

Donald Miller
Great characters redeem their challenges
We resonate with the "all is lost" scene in movies because we've all faced it ourselves
God is in the business of redeeming our negative turns
How is this benefiting me as well as being something to mourn?

All lives are beautiful... but I think some lives are lived with more meaning than others. I want you to figure out how to have a more meaningful life.

Joseph's story has positive and negative turns just like any of ours
+Joseph has a dream
- Joseph tells his brothers
- brothers leave Joseph in a well
+ Joseph is rescued
- he's sold into slavery
+ Joseph gets to run Potipher's house
- Potipher's wife tries to seduce Joseph and gets him in trouble
+ Joseph meets the baker and cup bearer 
- Joseph is forgotten in jail
+ Joseph stands before Pharaoh and presents his plan
- Joseph is reunited with his brothers
+ Joseph's plan to survive the famine works
+ Joseph is reunited with his family

You have to say, I've made some mistakes, but that can't name me or keep me from changing and growing

God's in no hurry-- he's way more interested in your character development than your comfort

Where is your pain bringing you? How do we make this into something beautiful?
How can you become a wounded healer?

What is God trying to do? He's saving lives
Maybe if we want to partner with him we need to channel our passions into saving lives

Forgiveness is accepting the burden somebody has given you while no longer holding anything against them
The pain won't go away, but you'll no longer be a victim

What will the world miss if you don't let God redeem your failures?

"For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement." Viktor Frankl

Scott Hamilton
I was unwanted and put up for adoption. Then I had an unknown disease and was in the hospital for four years. I found ice skating and I failed over and over again. I lost my mother to cancer. 20 years later I got diagnosed with cancer. 
The fear is overwhelming and excruciating. I was living never ending, repetitive tragedy.
I started to feel like I was pulling my life together and then I had to tell my wife I had a brain tumor.

I was watching Kristi Yamaguchi's program one night, she's always the most beautiful and flawless skater. I saw her tilt in her triple lutz and fall. But she didn't fall, she just kept on skating. You couldn't see any failure on her face, she finished perfectly. And I learned something so important that night-- don't give that 1 second of failure any value. 

When I go back and look at my life with that perspective I see things differently. I had two loving people adopt me. I learned to survive on my own. Every failure taught me how to get back up.

As deep as I've dug down, that's as high as I'm going to go
If we focus on that low and that failure we can't move
Those failures are actually opportunities in your life to take you to a whole other place

I'm blown away by God's grace and his mercy. The good things in my life all came out of something that was tragic and devastating. 

Storyline had Tom's coffee all day long and plenty of pastries and muffins. I was happy to find Katie, Abby and Audrey with a little feast of snacks. 

I was so excited to randomly run into Kelsey Jenney, YL staff that has spoken at two Fall weekends for HSE YL. Once I told her where I was from she remembered that we were the group that had to leave early from Timber Wolf last winter because of the massive blizzard. I ended up getting to sit next to her later that day in a writing workshop breakout session. 

Shauna Niequist
In each season of my life I need a word or a phrase to guide me. Right now that phrase is, "Do your thing with great love right now."

I had wandered off course, not like 1000 miles, but enough that it's starting to make a mark. I was choosing efficiency and multi-tasking over peace and grace.

20 years ago you would have said, "She's funny. She's silly." But 2 years ago you'd say, "She gets stuff done."

We long for vibrant, connected, rich, creative lives but then we discover that we've burned out.

I'm inching my way back to present, to connected. I'm leaving frantic and hurried and saying "yes" to everything behind. Now I'm redoing my math and saying "yes" where it matters. The tricky part is deciding who you'll disappoint. I really want people to think that I can handle it all.

I'm in this season of learning from everyone-- the taxi drive, the other mom at preschool, the mailman. Anyone who has something to teach me. I was at Bob and Maria's lodge and one of their traditions is to throw candy at the kayakers as they paddle by. 
I'd begun to be the super responsible candy thrower who only does it at reasonable times when it's safe and all the kid's homework is done. Then I became the kind of person that makes fun of people who throw candy.

God used two extraordinary people to return me to the vision of the person God made me to be.
This last season of my life has been a journey back to connection, to love.

DO-- anything worth doing. Whatever you want to do, it's work and that's ok. There's great honor in doing work. Staying inspired is part of the work of being a writer. It's part of my job to live an inspired life and I love my job. When you expect it to be easy you set yourself up for failure.

YOUR THING-- There is a supernatural thing that happens when you decide to just start being yourself. The God who loves you made you on purpose with a purpose. 
Pay attention to yourself the way you would pay attention to someone you have a crush on. Notice everything. Become a great student of your own self. What made me feel really alive? What was I supposed to like that I actually really hated? What makes me excited?
Ask for help from people around you. Sometimes it takes some one else to make us realize what they're seeing.
Then just try stuff. Lots of stuff.
Your "thing" might last your whole life or might just last a school year. Then you'll find a new thing.

WITH GREAT LOVE-- "How you do anything is how you do everything."
Nothing wonderful and durable gets made out of anything but love. Not envy or anger or bitterness or competition.
What you build must run on love because it's the only sustainable fuel.
Only do what you can do on love. Even if less stuff gets done. If this project will make you start running on anxiety then say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't do that."

RIGHT NOW-- I would like to eliminate words like "mani pedi" and "vaca" from language. If you have time for both of those things then you have the time to say the full words. I hate anything -pocalypse, whatevs, get my _____ on.
And we should eliminate "some day." It's a mirage, a myth. It makes us think we'll be ready when we start but you'll never be totally ready.

The world is full of people with a million excuses of why they can't do their thing right now. It's doesn't have to be done all at one. If you let your dreams float away, they will.

If you've wandered from who God made you to be, an inch or really far, what would it look like to get back to the vision, to the path God gave you.

Dear God, I pray for open eyes and open hearts to get back on the path you were created for. Be courageous enough to do that right now. Help us to be brave and listen closely to your voice. Walk with us. Pick us up when we fall. Cheer us on when we make progress.

Ben and I got to eat Chipotle for lunch with Katie and Abby. We thought we'd score $3 burritos with costumes but sadly that deal didn't start till 5. Still we got to devour burrito bowls and talk about dream jobs and all of these speakers and joining the Broadway Commune of YL staff some day. 

We had time to explore Willow for awhile when we returned. Ben and I wandered around the Care Center, the best part of this church. They've created this beautiful place where people from Chicago and all over the state can come to be cared for. Not only do they have a full grocery and clothing store where people can get things for free, but they offer dental, medical, legal and education help. They do care repair and give away free cars to single moms. They are loving people without limits in real and tangible ways. It's so, so cool. 

Ben and I got awesome seats for the last session of the afternoon-- right across the aisle from Bob Goff. When I went to take a picture with him he had to answer his phone, because he never lets people go to voicemail. He is so incredibly good at being attentive to whomever he is talking to. He never does handshakes, just hugs. When Ben and I told him we do YL he said, "YL guys are heroes."

I was beyond excited to get to meet Sweet Maria, Bob's wife. In his book he writes about stalking her early on by leaving PB & J sandwiches on her car window every day until she noticed him. She's an incredible wife and mother. Bob has mentioned before that Sweet Maria never travels with him so I was shocked that she was here at Storyline. She thought it was so funny that I would want a picture with her.

Donald Miller
The stakes of living a great story are really high. Humans are the only thing that get to participate in their own growth.

Bob called me and he said, "You know what, you're really good at relationships," and that was the start of believing things had to change.

Great characters take action. Great stories happen when we are courageous enough to believe the world needs our story.

Great stories change the narrative. We have to create this story we want to live and step into it.

What if someone picked up the DVD of your life. Would they know what your story is about?

At every Storyline conference I've told this story about my friend Ben. We were friends for awhile before I learned his whole story. He won a local metropolitan Opera contest and went on to be the greatest opera high tenor in the world and working in Paris. He chased his dream. Can I play you a clip of him singing? (We listen to one of Ben's pieces.) Yesterday, I looked out into the audience and you know who I saw? Ben! He's here!

Being engaged in the act of singing is redemptive for me.

Great stories move through the fear. 

Resistance creates lift. If there's no resistance it'll never get off the ground. 

Jesus gives us an invitation to a very difficult story. I wonder when we tell our stories if they could be the kind that tell stories of bring light into dark.

I rode my bike across America. It took 7 weeks. It was going to be awesome. I was going to blog about it.
4 hours in I was like, "This sucks."
5 weeks in I was like, "The Pacific Ocean is a myth. It doesn't exist."
When we made it to Delaware we threw our bikes in the ocean. We were never going to ride them again. Two friends of mine, a husband and wife, rode the whole way together on a tandem bike. I remember seeing them hug as we finished. They were writing a beautiful story together.

Someday we won't be here. Our story will be over. And we'll stand before Jesus and he'll say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." That's the kind of climax I want.

There's a saying that, "writers love to have written." I think it's true that we love to have lived. I want your life to be a page turner.

Toy Story 3, the greatest screen play of all time, is about these toys that were created to be loved by their master who they've been separated from. They want to know if they still have value. They even go to hell and the devil is a teddy bear. 

"Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world." -Robert McKee

Bob Goff
I set out to live my life surrounded by the people who will be surrounding my bed when I die.

I went to this thing at Disney World with all of these Christian radio stations. They sent someone with a limo to pick me up. I never take limos but I thought, "What the heck." So I got in this limo and I was talking to the driver and I said, "If someone asks me about Orlando I'd tell them everyone is nice because you're so nice." You know how that works? If you meet someone mean on a trip you think the whole town is mean too. 
I want people to meet me and you and feel like they just met heaven. 

The driver told me he's been driving for 25 years and he'd never been in the back of one of them. So I said, "PULL OVER!" and then I drove him into Disney World. It was a riot! And when we got out of the car I gave him a medal, I carry all these little medals around, and I pinned it on him and I said, "You are brave and courageous."

Let's tell people who they are and who they're going to be. We're not our failures or our successes, we are our love. We're all turning into love.

I rented this janky little plane and flew to LA. I just went 8000 feet the whole way over the tallest mountain top. I wanted to be safe. But when I got there I met these jet plane fliers who told me they came all the way here so they could fly through the valleys. They wanted to get better.

Jesus didn't tell anyone to play it safe. We need to be better, more humble.

So when I was starting to land only 2 of the 3 landing lights were on. I didn't know what to do. I could keep circling the field forever or try to land the place.
So I got the nose really high and then waited for the back wheels to land and prayed that I wouldn't die. But then it was all ok. The light was just bad on the control panel.
You've got the lights you've got-- just go land the plane. 

Isn't falling in love awesome? But the hard work is to remain in love. How do you become the person God made you to be? Remain in love.

I got invited to speak at this conference called Promise Keepers. I bought this 8 ft bass fish that you fill up with helium and control with a remote. And I got this kid to launch the bass from the balcony during my talk. All these men started watching the bass and then looking back at me and then looking at the bass.
That's the problem! We've got one eye on Jesus and one on the bass in the room. We've got to get rid of the distractions.

So I was thinking about how Jesus made himself more available. I had my phone number put on the last page of Love Does. I get about 100 calls a day. And I never let people go to voicemail. You want to know why? People want to know if all of this is true.

Go make some moves. I don't need people to think that I'm cool anymore. Jesus leads people to Jesus. 
We've got to stop comparing ourselves. God doesn't compare what he creates. I'm kind of wonky. You go be you.

We'll never honor Christ if we forget to honor each other. I don't think people follow vision, I think they follow availability.

My boundaries are: Everybody. Always.
But that doesn't work for Sweet Maria. She has her own boundaries. Go figure out yours.

Go. Try. Fail. Don't fail by just watching and waiting. Just try something! Heaven's leaning over the rail hoping that you will.

What if we're picky about what we say to each other? Let's pick words of life and words of encouragement. Less words. More available. Just know each other is present.

I'm not trying to be right anymore. I'm just trying to be humble. 
"Love your enemies so you can be perfect like your heavenly father is humble."
What's the next humblest version of you?

God makes people. People make issues. But people aren't issues.
If you disagree with someone but you don't know their name, shut up. Get to know them first before you start arguing.

Live in grace. Walk in love.
"This is love that we walk in obedience with his commands. And his command is to walk in love."

I love Disney World. I spend every Wednesday on Tom Sawyer Island. Do you know why? Because I don't want to lose my imagination. We ought to be the most engaged people on Earth.
Pick a person every single week that you want to meet. Call them up. Write a letter. You know Dip n' Dots? I really love Dip n' Dots so I googled the guy that invented it and I called him up.
People ask me, "What's that have to do with your faith?" EVERYTHING!

I want to help people get home. Tell them who they are. The Holy Spirit will tell them what they should do. 

After two crazy weeks of traveling I came home and Sweet Maria had a "Help Wanted" sign in our front window. That just killed me. Every Thursday I quit something. I stopped making appointments. I don't know what I'll be doing at 2 today. I just quit my law firm. Work? What's that?
Get rid of whatever is keeping you stuck by pretending or comparing or guilt.

Proverbs 4:23 "Above everything else, guard each other's hearts." People we don't understand-- guard them. Everybody's in.

I went and visited this prison yesterday. Every person that checks in gets a copy of Love Does. These guys see who they're becoming. 
God draws this huge circle around all of us and says, "You're in."

If you love people, if you live this big life, you're going to mess up. That's ok. Don't let other people decide who you are.

My friend Kelly called me and told me that her heart was failing. The next time I got call she was getting a heart transplant. Now she's going around the world climbing all of the tallest mountains.
We're each getting Christ's heart. We've got to talk to our heart more.

I was the guy living in comfortable. And when you're comfortable you don't need Jesus.

I think God wants us living right on the edge of Yikes. He wants us thinking, "Oh I need Jesus to pull this off." 
So I'm starting this school for girls in Somalia. Girls can't get an education there but they can at our schools. Our words have power. Sweet Maria and I went to visit. We put pins on all of these little girls and gave them balloons. 

We visited our Restore Academy in Africa and we taught the guys there how to surf with a skateboard and tarp. We were surfing in the middle of Africa! 

It changes everything when we say, "I see who you've becoming." 

If you've got a guide that you can trust you can make it to the top of the mountain. And if you trip on the way up you're just bumping into Jesus.

I came home recently and found a note from Sweet Maria that said, "Meet me at the cabin." And I though, "Yeeee!" And I went and found her waiting there for me and she had on her wedding dress and she had a tux for me. And we renewed our vows.

What if we renew our vows to ourselves? Who are we becoming?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"What will the world miss if you do not tell your story?" Storyline Conference

We had checked in, gotten our attendee bags, bought Storyline tshirts and then were just waiting for the doors to the atrium to open. I said to Ben, "Do you think Glennon and Shauna and Bob are just mingling somewhere in here with everyone?" Before he had time to answer we saw Glennon AND Shauna walking TOGETHER across the room. Ben said, "This is your chance! Go talk to them!" 

I didn't waste the opportunity and went right over to them both. Oh my goodness how I love these women. They are two of my very favorite writers and people in the world. When I grow up I want to be more like them. Their words and wisdom and optimism are just.... Wow.

So getting to see both of them at the same time was a huge moment to say the least. I'm such a fan. 

As soon as they walked away I realized I had forgotten to give them the friendship bracelets I had made for them. So I went on over to talk to them both again. Glennon was pumped to pick her 'Merica earthquake and I had her pick one for her sister too. Then I let Shauna choose one and she picked the one I predicted that she would. I think friendship bracelets are more Glennon's style than Shauna's, but they both tied them on right away. Glennon told me she would wear her's on stage today for good luck. 

I didn't know if I'd run into any one unexpected today but quickly spotted my friend Becca Currey from Hope College where we were SIBs together. She was there with Sara, another SIB, that came after me.  It was so good to see them and have a little bit of Hope here at Willow.

This Storyline conference is basically the perfect storm of my tribe of writers-- Bob Goff, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle Melton and Bob Goff all in one place. It's two days of sessions of talks with people that I can't write down every word fast enough, but I still tried. The following are all of my notes from today and they are lengthy to say the least. Feel free to read every word or just scroll through to the speaker names you recognize.

Shauna Niequist- Introduction
Ideas can change us and community can shape us. 
It's never too late to start living a better story.
We all win when we create things together.

Donald Miller
You are at home here. Take off your shoes when you come in, leave with someone else's. It's a spiritual thing--we'll figure out the metaphor later. 

Story- What kind of life is interesting or meaningful or exciting.
I encourage you all to spend two years with screen writers like I did so they can tell you why your life sucks.
I learned this formula of how to tell a story and then I thought, what if I lived out of this formula.

You know a movie is good when people keep sitting in the theatre as the credits are rolling. So I went recently and saw Toy Story 3, the greatest screen play ever written. 

I feel a sense of gratitude, not for the film, but that I get to be alive. I think, maybe this thing is more special than I thought. Let's live in a way that at our funerals people just keep sitting. We want people to say that their life shows me that this could be more than I thought. 

There are 7 Common Elements of Stories
Character- that's you of course, you have to want something
     if they want nothing or it's not clearly defined then there is no story
     then the story question is, Are you going to be able to get it done?
Problem- it can't come easy without conflict and tragedy
     conflict makes it meaningful and it shapes you
Guide- the person who understands them and helps 
     who is out there in front of you, who has wisdom?
Plan- usually pretty simple, something we can count on
Action- call to move, a story is only told when it's lived
Success- what's at stake? what would success look like?
Failure- what happens if you don't live this story?

"What do I want?" Can your boss/spouse/friends answer that question about you?
Are we willing to engage in conflict? There's always a redemptive side.
What's your plan?
What action do we need to take?
What will life look like if we live it out?
What will life look like if we don't?

Viktor Frankl recognized that Freud says that man lives to find pleasure. But Viktor says man looks for meaning and if they don't find it they numb themselves with pleasure.

1. Project that serves others
2. Intimate, safe relationships
3. Redemptive perspective on our suffering 

"God did not create us to live in reaction, but to be co-creators of a meaningful life."

My friend was telling me that he thinks life is meaningless and I said to him, "What if life is not meaningless? What if just your life is meaningless?"

What if God has given you a blank book. You can write what you want, there is that much freedom. All the elements are there but it's just boring. But what if the story could be a page turner? 
What if you didn't even have time to question if your life is meaningful?

My life isn't nearly as exciting as all the other speakers that are here, but this is the life God gave me and I'm loving it.

What will the world miss if you do not tell your story?

The dominant way that people consume stories is through us. Story changes the moral compass in the brain.
What if the story you live shapes the moral compass of the people around you?
What's worth living for?
What's worth arguing about?

Jenna- She saw Jars of Clay in concert, wrote them a letter and they offered her a job as a Jr in college. They told her to come after graduation and run Blood Water Mission in subsaharan Africa. She's now drilled over 1,000 wells.

Todd- He keeps believing and pressing and giving and understanding and shaping the conversation of what's happening in the Middle East. 

God does something when we stand up and say, "I want to do something with you. I want to build something with you."
We bond when we do stuff together. God's dying to do something with us.

Katherine- Wall Street investor finds a kindred spirit with violent inmates. She started a program in a jail for all of these inmates, runs a classroom of all these adult violent males. If 1 of them tried to hurt her she said the rest of them would try to hurt him.

Tom- Director of movies like Ace Ventura and making bank but totally miserable. So he sold everything and moved into a double wide trailer and now he only wears t-shirts.

How did God wire me? How is it unique and special and different? Figure that out and then you won't be living someone else's script.

Pete- Coach of the Seattle Seahawks. One of the most people I've ever met. He told me that 10% of his life is football. He's not a Jesus guy but he said, "There's something in the cosmos that makes me want to love people." I know who that is... Santa Clause!
Pete hears about all these teens in LA getting killed. So he goes in to LA and just meets and talks to people and makes friends. He starts "A Better LA" and lives a story that is very different. 

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their song still in them." -Henry David Thoreau

Scars, we like to call them life tattoos. And they're beautiful. 

Prop, as his friends call him, is a really fantastic slam poet. I'd seen a video of his before where he presents the whole gospel in about two minutes. It was really awesome to see him perform to different pieces in person. 

Michael Hyatt
I vowed that I would never be like my dad. That vow shaped my life. I took control of my life. 
I thought that I had it all together until my business failed, my health failed, my marriage was struggling. Being in control didn't work either. 

So many people live their lives drifting, mesmerized by everything around them. They're not intentional about where they're going.
Drifting and Driven are both the default life, the unconscious way to live.
The 3rd option is Designed. Be the story teller of your own life and co-create it with God.

There are 3 major questions:

1. How do you want to be remembered?
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever used to help me make the big choices in life." -Steve Jobs

2. What's important to you?
The myth is that you can do everything. You have to have a set of priorities. The choices we make are important because they shape the meaning of our life.
You can do anything, you just can't do everything you want. 
Write down the categories of your life and rank them so you know what's important.

The power of priorities is that they give us the power to say "yes" to the things that matter and "no" to the things that don't. It's usually not even a choice between what is good or bad but between what is good and best.

"The difference between successful and very successful people is that they say no to almost everything." -Warren Buffett

3. What single brave decision do you need to make today?
Planning is just a fancy version of procrastination. We just need to do the next right thing.  
"If you're going to get fired, cause it." I needed to do what was right and not spend the next few years doing what someone else just told me to do.

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." -Neale Donald Walsch

This is your one and only life. It's really a gift. Do what matters.

We left for lunch with three of Ben's YL people and my friends Audrey, Katie and Abby who are all Butler/YL people in Indy. We went to Giordano's for lunch and ate so much delicious pizza.

Donald Miller
Great characters know what they want. When we define what we're heading towards life makes a lot more sense.

Katniss, Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa-- we know what they all want. 

Meaning and conflict go together--every writer has to make choices because you can't do everything.
Could we analyze our own lives and say what needs to go?
When you focus you can have a more productive and efficient life.
If something isn't growing or changing then it is already dead.
Saying "I want to do ______" will threaten some people. So some people revert back to who they used to be to avoid the tension.

We gain stability under thrust, pick somewhere to go to and just do it. 

We fear the responsibility of our own agency.
Does God have a specific plan for my life? I actually think no. This idea has messed up a lot of people and caused really boring lives.

What if your relationship with God looked more like a dad coloring with his daughter than a dad telling his kid exactly what to do.

Does this honor God? Is it true of who I am? Am I going to need God? Will this make my heart light up?

God is not passive-aggressive. He's direct. And fairly temporary--let's do this and then move on.
I think we just have to chose something we want and go for it.

When people work with their passions it's like working with jet fuel. 

Principles of Decision Making
1. Where God commands we must obey
2. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (& responsibility) to chose
3. Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to chose
4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good

God says you have passion and talents. He's waiting. Do something together.

Creators are unbelievably powerful. We were made in the image of God and he makes some really cool stuff.

It's in us to create something for other people. We shouldn't be afraid of it.

5 Regrets of the Dying
1. they ignored their dreams
2. they worked too much
3. they didn't say what they thought
4. they wished they'd made more friends
5. they wished they'd chosen to be more happy

5 Commands for the Living
1. don't ignore your dreams
2. keep work and relationships in balance
3. project your God-given self onto the world
4. cultivate deep friendships
5. be grateful

Where am I going? Pick a point on the horizon, roll back the throttle and go.

Glennon Doyle Melton

Then it was time for my girl Glennon. I love that she is so authentically her. Ben says I had a minor freak out when she got up to speak. I love her presence and her ability to be really present and that she laughs at herself and that she's just so real.

AND she was wearing my friendship bracelet. This is a big deal.

Glennon means the girl from the valley. A check out girl asked about it and I said it was fitting because I'd been living in the valley lately. And she said, "Oh, but on the mountain tops the air is thin. And at the top of the mountain there is barely any room and all you can do is stand there. But in the valley there is water, that's where life happens." So I am a valley girl.

I got sober 12 years ago, on mother's day, when I found out that I was pregnant.
It was an invitation to show up, to come back to life.

God is not some crappy middle schooler who sends us 1 invitation and then just shuns us forever if we reject it.

I think He's always working on a new invitation for us. If we're alive then we're invited.

My mantra became: just do the next right thing.

My life looked very different than what I was seeing in shiny commercials of motherhood. I was dripping with children and marriage... wow.... wow.
Shame came creeping in, the way out of shame is art and meaning.

The invitation from God was to write, but it seemed boring and totally unsexy.

I wrote this list of 25 things about myself  on facebook and it blew up in half an hour. I came back to my computer and it had a billion shares and I had 50 emails and 7 messages from my sister that said, "What did you do?!" and I thought, "Noooooooooooo."

But all these people said, "Me too."
This whole truth telling thing is like a key that unlocks people. This is interesting. Our surface stuff is all different, it's harder. So I went deeper, because the deep stuff is what we all have in common. But it's scare the bajeezus out of some people. 

I've stopped believing that there is anything so horrible inside of me that I can't bring it out into the light. Truth telling is setting me free.

If you didn't know me better you might think I'm this mountain top person because I've got this blog and book and non-profit. But we are all messy and human the whole way through. Because I face my demons head on each day they're a hell of a lot less scary.

I'm invited to show up and speak up and create simply because I'm a child of God and so are you.

If we're living life right we recognize each moment as an invitation. I don't know why I'm being invited, but I trust the inviter.

When I was in the absolute worst moment of my life I got the most beautiful and sacred invitation of my life. I get to be Chase's momma. And I have these two little girls and this husband and this blog as living proof that we can do something beautiful.

We don't have to get ready first.
Be a soul, not a role. Roles are temporary.
I am small and the world is big. And whatever is holding the world together can hold me and my life together too. 

What do I love? What is beauty? How do I fill up with it?

Be Still
Half the battle is starting and half the battle is not quitting.
The power of the creator is to sit with life's discomfort and turn it into art.

Be Ordinary
Special people don't move us, but the ordinary people that we can relate to are the special ones.
Be your favorite version of your future self. I don't have a plot in mind, but I have a character in  mind.
What do I have to do to become that future self?

I did it! I'm done! (curtsy)

Glennon Doyle Melton and Shauna Niequist Q and A Breakout on writing

These answers are from both Shauna and Glennon which is hopefully not too confusing...

I'm going to show up and serve the people I'm supposed to.
Content matters. It will find it's way. Probably not in the way you expected.

When I go back to old post I sometimes see that I am so very different now. You change. You should change. 

The deeper you connect, the less tendency you have to compare. You will see people as humans and not constantly compare.
Sometimes envy can point you in the right direction. Envy might be bottled up admiration. So when I read something I'm really jealous of I repost it and say, "Read this! It's really awesome. I love it!"
And people like to be liked so then they let you in to their circle and then there is friendship and connecting.

The people you're really jealous of are probably just the people you need to get to know better.

You have to be brave enough to tell your own story and kind enough to not write someone else's. 
I get written permission from everyone I write about.

I take a story in my own life, the little moments that I can collect, where there is more going on under the surface. 
I write down everything right away, all the details and the things I won't remember later like the way the room smelled or what their voice sounded like. Then I let it marinate and sit between 6 weeks and 6 months. Then you can see what it's really about. You can go deep and make it universal.

I know I'm a really good mom. And I love my work. And I love that my kids see that I love my work.

You do life year by year because things change. You and your partner and your kid need different things each year. We talk about our dreams and hopes and the meaning behind it--not just the logistics.

You train your brain to look for stories. A good day is a good day. A bad day is a good story. The more you train your brain to look for things the more you'll notice.
You keep a notecard in your back pocket or email yourself constantly. You keep a pantry of ideas and you won't run out of things to write about.

Writers don't care about right and wrong. They write what's true. It might be completely different tomorrow because we're all different each day. 

Be willing to be human. Things will be messy and misunderstood sometimes. 

You grow your platform by serving the people you already have. Show up every day. Content wins over time. Always do it your right way. What's authentic to you?

I don't need this to be huge. I just need to keep earning the right to be heard over and over.

When you find a voice you love in writing it's probably close to your own. So show up and try that for awhile. You'll find your own.

We just have to be tough enough to not quit. When you're truth telling you're doing it because you believe deep, deep down that we're all the same.
When things feel scary, when I've been doing a lot, I need to circle in real tight with my tribe, with my people. 

Find people who are great at some specific thing and ask them to help you. You're building a little tribe and everyone can do that. You don't have to do any of this alone.
It doesn't have to be perfect.
Great content over time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"That's what people do who change the world-- they show up before they're ready."

Do you know what's really wonderful? Lot's of things...

leaving school on Wednesday and knowing you won't be back till Monday.
listening to Taylor Swift's new CD all the way to Chicago.
having Nina jump out of her car and run to see you.
getting to see Max the cat on national cat day.

having dinner with Camp Tecumseh girls on a random week night.
hearing 6 people simultaneously talk in Miranda Sings voices.
getting to stay with Sarah and Ben Battaglia.
anticipation for Story Line starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Highs of the Day

1. A coffee date with Maddy Carter after school which was great because I miss seeing her every single day.

2. A group chat with the 9 girls from my Sharp Top Cabin last summer and remembering Yeah Buddy, Tim's songs at Club, my bedtime stories at the end of the night, the smallest cabin ever, Nah Bruh, best friend necklaces and no see um bites.

3. A heart to heart with Anne Kleinrichert tonight about volleyball and faith and friends and family.

4. Talking to my old friend Casey about memories in college like when we found a dead bat in her cottage that ended up still being alive.

5. The greatest text from Ellie Pearl-- a reminder of how God works in our lives and passes us the right people at the right time.

"I love this! I love researching women who shaped history and science today. They're so underrated."

Glennon Doyle Melton is one of my favorite people and authors-- she's a writer of the truth and cheerleader extreme. I want to be real life friends with this woman. I'm giving her a friendship bracelet later this week so you never know, it could happen.

Today she wrote on her blob Momastery about one of her old teachers, you really should read the whole thing, but I just had to share part of it...

Most people who have a deep desire for lives of meaning and purpose and love are the kind of people who already have lives of meaning and purpose and love.
Just for a moment today- put on your perspectacles and look at your own life. You’ve probably got someone to love, some good work to do, some people who count on you, something beautiful to look at. If you have all that and a little bit of chocolate, too- you’ve already got it all.
That’s it, you guys. Life need get no “bigger” than that.
Don’t become so concerned with creating a life of meaning that you forget you already have one.
Because What if Your Life is Already The Best Thing?

Today after school I got to have a coffee date with my friend Cassidy. She's a Senior at HSE and just started coming to YL this year. She's been in my small group at Campaigners and we've hung out with her friends, but I really wanted to get to know her individually. So today we sat across a table with a vanilla latte and salted caramel mocha and talked about life. These conversations are one of the very best parts of being a YL leader. 

This Monday night we gathered at the Barn for YL Club. Once a month instead of Campaigners we dress up and go crazy at Club. Tonight's theme was Heroes and Villains

Usually Brooke can't come to YL because she has cheer or softball during this time. So I was thrilled when I walked down the stairs tonight and found her in the middle of the gym. My actual words were something like, "SHUT UP! BROOKE! OH MY GOSH!" and then I attacked her as she just laughed. I love when Brooke, Julia and Olivia all get to be here at the same time.

We had all sorts of super heroes and villains show up at YL Club tonight. We love our whole YL family of kids and leaders that gathers together in this space and outside of this walls. I love that as a leader I get to know my girls and pour into their lives. At the same time, there are a dozen other leaders spending time with their kids and building them up. It takes a village.

I was on the microphone explaining a game when I saw my friend Hannah, a Senior, walk into the room. I stopped for a second and got such a big smile on my face because I was so excited she was there. These HS kids really do become our friends and our people. Jesus calls us to invest in each other, to carry one another's burdens and rejoice in each other's triumphs. It's an honor to get to do that.

Tonight during Club we sang "I Can Be Your Hero," guessed identities on our backs and played a gigantic game of knock out. On Club nights we just get to play together. It's so different than school or any other kind of meeting.

On nights when we have Campaigners I barely get to see the kids who aren't in my group. But tonight I got to hang out with Liz Huston, Haleigh Devoe and Alli King. I got to see the HS kids be awesome with special friends like Gracie who came tonight. I got to see leaders engage with their kids when normally we'd all be split up.

Eight kids got called up for Egg Roulette. Some of the eggs were hard boiled and it was all luck of the draw. Two raw eggs smashed on your forehead and you were out. Jake Conrad reigned victorious.

Something I love about HSE YL is that we break up into small groups after the Club talk. Our kids love this time of conversation and diving deep so we make it a priority even when we're not in Campaigners. After Kocher's Club Talk about God being the ultimate hero tonight, we talked about our heroes and the people who look up to us. We thought back on her stories of the men thrown in the firey pit and of Jesus being tempted by the devil. Over and over again God is the hero in seemingly impossible situations. We know that he is the one that we can draw our strength from even when it may seem difficult.

Today was a great day. Glennon's post said, "Don't be so concerned with creating a life of meaning that you forget you already have one." Right now I feel like the things I get to do every day are pretty meaningful and I'm not taking that for granted.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

198 blocks. 3 sewers. 2 quilts. 1 weekend.

I drove up to Michigan this weekend to spend time with my family. Friday was my Dad's birthday and I got there in time to have dinner with everyone and eat Dad's birthday cake. We are lucky to have such an awesome Dad that loves us all so well. At dinner we went around and each said something we love about him and it wasn't hard to think of something. 

I got to spend the whole weekend at my parents' house with our family popping in and out. My mom is the best mom and quilter around. She happily volunteered to help my friend Sarah and I make our matching friendship quilts this weekend-- a huge task. We started Friday night after dinner and worked pretty much every waking moment. 

Sar got in from Chicago just as mom and I finished cutting out and marking all of my fabric. We're both doing navy backgrounds but have different fabric for the chevron shapes. My mom's quilting room is a fabric wonderland and she let us pick out our favorite patterns for our quilts.

There are three big sections of a quilt--cutting out all the fabric, making the 99 blocks for each quilt, then sewing all the blocks together into rows and the final quilt with borders. It's a process. Because we were both making a quilt we doubled the work.

Luckily we're a quilting team so all three of us worked together to sew, iron and piece. With Sar, mom and I all working we could work fluidly without stopping in between each piece. We made a list on Saturday and think we've made 9 quilts as team quilters together.

Katie and Nick's small group came over for a chili cook off on Saturday. Suddenly the house was filled with people sampling chili, playing with kids and carving pumpkins in the backyard. Sar, mom and I continued to quilt in the sewing room. Lincoln was our best visitor. He climbed right up on mom's lap and eagerly tried to help with the fabric and pins.

We quilted till 11:30 Saturday night, started again by 9 on Sunday and finished the last seem at about 1:45. Boom. Two giant, matching, beautiful quilts. We love them.

We had to go out to the back porch to get the whole thing in a picture.

Then we tried the front yard so that you could actually see both of us in the picture. I dropped off the quilts at Marilyn's on the way back through Indiana. She'll do the actual quilting of them and we'll get them back at December Quilt Camp to do the binding. We're so excited about the finished projects!