One Word 2014

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I’ve spent weeks thinking about a word for this year and I thought I had landed on discipline. I would devote 2014 to getting life in order, setting rules for myself, having a more rigid routine…all of which boiled down to one ugly word: control. It hit me that I wanted to focus on discipline because life feels out of control and discipline would allow me to restore some sense of order to it. But I’ve spent my entire life trying to control and every single time I finally find myself curled up in a teary ball giving up…because life isn’t found in a death grip.

In that same conversation with myself I realized that all I’ve desperately been searching for the past few months is to feel alive again. To be raw to joy and pain and everything in between – to simply be able to feel. As I’ve sat in a counselor’s office the last 8 months the “issue” has been I’m apathetic and that’s not me but I can’t figure out how to fix it.

The last three and a half years have been packed full of growth – emotional soul growth. There’s been a lot of hard work done to embrace feelings with courage and honesty. To accept reality for what it is – resisting the urge to judge it as good or bad. To let go of plans I had consciously and subconsciously made for my life and be okay with life unfolding as it comes. To give myself as much grace as I give others. 

They’ve also been packed full of life. Quitting a job, giving up a dream, moving to a new unknown city on a whim with no job and a Craigslist roommate, new church, new community, all new friends, losing old friends, losing new friends, learning what it is to love, learning what community is all about, new job – one I decided to create for myself, a lot of travel, and little to no rest. It’s been wonderful and exhilarating but also exhausting. I’ve been tired for a while as a result of it all but I’ve continued pulling myself up by the bootstraps as they say and trudging through.

But trudging is no way to go through life. So when I went looking for a new word I discovered revive. I was quite excited because it rings of joy and life. Then I went looking for the definition and something hit me: if revival brings back to life, death must happen first. Perhaps this word is going to be a little harder and a bit more painful than I thought. But it’s going to be worth it.

Revive: to bring back to life or consciousness; to impart new health, vigor or spirit; to restore to use, currency, activity, or notice; to restore the validity or effectiveness of; to renew in the mind; to present again

Here we are halfway through the first month of a new year & I’m finally finding a moment to compose these thoughts. After starting 2014 off recovering from the holidays only to get strep throat, revival is a very welcome thought! My hope for this year is that I get to catch my breath…and have time to take a few deep ones.

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Revising Life

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A mutual friend encouraged Renee to reach out to me about my work. We finally connected for coffee after a missed connection. Expecting a business conversation, I asked Renee to tell me about what she did. What followed was one of those sacred moments of connection.

Renee had found herself in an unexpected circumstance recently after a myriad of things didn’t go as she planned. But, instead of sitting by & complaining about it, she had a different idea. Renee proceeded to tell me about her plan to change her story in 30 days. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? Well I LOVE people with ambitious, out-of-the-box ideas.

I think those lyrics are true – “life without revision will silence our souls.” But, the courage to make revisions isn’t easy to come by. That’s exactly why stories like Renee’s are inspiring to me.

In her words, she “doesn’t want to get old without changing some things.” She’s sharing her “30 days to change her story” journey with you on a blog.

When was the last time you revised your story? 

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On Living and Leaving

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“What brought you to Nashville?”

“Life.” Life is always my answer. Sometimes people give me a perplexed look & ask me to explain. Then I get to tell them the story & that’s my favorite part.

More life has been crammed into the last three years than I could’ve ever imagined. But I’ve learned that when you commit to living & not just surviving, God will be faithful in giving you that desire of your heart.

I don’t think I was prepared for the grieving that comes along with living. In my experience, being alive requires a lot of things to die. Sometimes even good things. Friendships. Work. Experiences. Traditions. Good things that are ideal distractions from greater things. It’s that “seasons” thing we talk about – at some point the winter will come, it always does, to kill off the old & make room for the new.

A friend shared a passage from “Through Painted Deserts” with me a few months back that nearly brought me to tears. It was one of those moments where you feel like an author wrote those words just for you…

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it? 

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. 

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed. 

I am in a season of metaphorical leaving. I’m not moving, not even taking a long trip anywhere. But leaving nonetheless.

A friend asked me today how I’d been. I told him I was hanging in there. He asked if I thought this time was going to end up somewhere good or if it felt aimless. I told him I thought it would be good. That it was hard because I was choosing hard. I got tired of feeling like I had settled into going through the motions, yet again, so I made a choice to dig in. To have hard conversations. To do the hard work of growth.

Winter is dragging on but I sense Spring coming. And I have hope that even this chapter belongs in my Nashville story. My grandpa asked me a few months back if I planned to stay here forever. I told him absolutely, if I had it my way! But even when you find home, it would be a crime not to venture out now & again, wouldn’t it?

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In the Mystery

We were catching up on life while several hundred folks swirled around us. It had been a year since we’d last chatted – in this same spot in a city neither of us call home.

“I quit my job,” he said. “I sold all my tools and decided I was done.”

“That’s awesome!” The tone in his voice told me that this was indeed an awesome thing – a leap towards something undefined yet filled with the Kingdom. “What’s next?”

The chuckle and the shrug told me he was in mid-step and didn’t know where his foot was going to land. “I don’t really know. But, I’ve always been inspired by your story & I figured ‘If Katie can do it, I can do it.’”

Something in my soul wasn’t okay with what my friend had just said. (And not just because I’m terrible at receiving compliments) While I was humbled in that moment I was even more so convicted. That’s not the first time I’ve heard the “I’m inspired by your story” line, but I can’t tell you the last time I heard it in reference to my present life. Most of the time people are talking about the life I was living 3 years ago – one of risk, of stepping out in faith into a hazy unknown mystery.

“Thank you, I’m honored,” I said while simultaneously resolving in my heart to quit enough things to make room for mystery in my life again.

Because mystery isn’t the language of my comfort-prone, detail-managing self. No, in my story, mystery points to the Storyteller. It’s in the mystery that He ignites dreams in my heart for things far greater than myself. And I want those dreams.

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Can I Tell You a Story about STORY?

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People ask me often how DirtyWork got started. And no matter where I start the story or how I tell it, it always involves a conversation in which Ben Arment told me I needed to start a company & call it DirtyWork because that’s what I do for people.

The only reason I know Ben is because of STORY. After hearing him share the vision for STORY briefly in a keynote at another conference in July 2009, I knew I wanted to attend the inaugural event that September.

I did. And afterward I gave Ben my card & offered to help keep STORY going in any way that I could. It had made an impact on my life, far greater than I even knew at that point, & I wanted others to have the opportunity for a similar experience.

By the following September I found myself fully involved as part of the STORY team helping coordinate our Sponsor relationships & all things operations for the event. I had also quit my job at the church & was just a few weeks into a new life in Nashville.

We all have things that mark the passing of our lives. When we’re young it’s usually the start of the school year or perhaps an annual family vacation. STORY has become one of those experiences by which I mark the passing of my life. I can’t imagine a September without it at this point.

More than that, STORY reminds me why I love what I do. There is no greater joy for me than being a part of something so much greater than myself; a vision that inspires hundreds and impacts thousands. STORY is one of those visions. It’s a labor-of-love dream like few I’ve seen. And for me, it’s more than a vision - it’s become my tribe. 

 “Each year that passes, the more I find myself in search of people who give a #%$. About ideas. About excellence. About stories. About craftsmanship. About the tactile. About dreams. And about leaving a mark on the world. There aren’t many of those people around, but the ones I know gather at STORY.” – Ben Arment, STORY Director

If you thrive on the impossible & the unconventional; if you are always searching for a better way or even just a different way; if you are inspired by dreamers, by storytellers, by artists, will you join us in September? You are part of the STORY tribe & we’d love for you to experience this year’s event with us. 

 You can find more info about this year’s event here.

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