Tuesday, July 27, 2010

story time

Hello Don and all of you nice people working with Don,

A year out of college, I heard the call to give up life as I knew it. And I listened. I went.

Kazakhstan was freezing but the people were warm, and for various reasons, it turned out to be my time in Russia that made me come on back home with my tail between my legs. In the years since then, I’ve branded myself as an out-of-place, burnt out, recovering missionary. Nothing could have prepared me for all of the isolation and loneliness and feeling and thinking I encountered. I was pretty high up there in the latitudes, and it was dark a lot. I didn’t know what to do with that.

I haven’t let go of my faith but have gotten used to the hurt of wanting to feel God the way I once did. What once was a sharp, debilitating pain has dulled into a constant, familiar, almost comfortable ache. I know that that’s not a theologically sound concept and can recite backwards and forwards the jargon about how faith is not all about feeling, but those are the only words that begin to give a voice to what’s been swirling around inside for the last five years.

So I spent time in thirdish-world places trying to live out the Gospel. And the last few years I’ve worked for an obscenely large nonprofit that helps the world over- from the tsunami to Katrina to Haiti to helping people down the street and in our own backyards (rhymes with “schmed hoss”). I’ve also spent the better part of the last year nursing my fiancé-now-husband back to health after a near-fatal motorcycle accident and subsequent stroke.

Good Christian service? Check. Working for next-to-nothing for the betterment of people in need? Check. Spending months in a hospital, dutifully and selflessly caring for the one I love? Checkity-checkity-check.

On paper, I don’t look half bad.

Then why do I yearn for so much more?

Leaving for Kazakhstan was one of the greatest things I ever did. It was being active. Setting out into the unknown. Taking a risk. Experiencing the rewards, even though they were rarely in the form I expected. Choosing a story and living it out. And as hard as it was, I’d do it all again. Only on coming back would I begin rewriting things. My sense of entitlement and switching to a passive role when life didn’t seem fun and adventurous anymore. My easy acceptance of not “feeling” my faith as I once did. My passive-aggressiveness at everyone and everything when my husband had his accident. Even at him.

There. Now you see me in a more realistic light. Now you know just why I’m in a place of wanting. I hunger to run headlong into thinking and feeling and processing and seeking and being an active character again.

And it so happens that we’re at a fork in the road. A very timely, curious, and cleverly-placed split. This last year, we’ve been beat up, beat down, scared senseless, hopeless, and desperate for things to get better. But it’s these same struggles that have also afforded us a great dose of healthy perspective as to the kind of people we want to be and what we think matters. My husband and I want to make our own way, make our own story that is bigger and somehow more than what we're now living. And this, this is the point at which, over long cups of coffee or a bottle of wine, we begin to dream of weaving that better story together.

We want to make a niche in which we can use our specific talents and abilities to, well, do something specific. Maybe find something, some kind of project or career or calling, that without us, couldn’t or most likely wouldn’t ever come to fruition. We believe we’ve found it. And if we’re successful, there’s no end to the ways that our community and the lives lived within it might be changed.

My other half, Johan, happens to be Danish, happens to speak seven languages, and with his background in sales and business, happens to want to work to bridge Scandinavian green industries and initiatives to our part of the country. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are light years ahead of us as far as energy consumption and green living/business go (not to mention interior design, albeit that is TOTALLY unrelated to this story). We want to help build our economy in an environmentally responsible way by, in a sense, acting as brokers between Scandinavian companies with interests in expanding into the U.S. market and local government looking for ways to create jobs and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.

Now, did I hear someone mention conflict? Of course. Formidable obstacles are as follows:

1. We are admittedly for the most part lacking in technical knowledge of green industry. Yes, I know what a LEED certification is, but beyond that, we’re pretty green when it comes to green (in more ways than one: see #2).

2. We’re, um, challenged in the financial department. Living on my income due to that aforementioned motorcycle vs. car battle + medical bills has left us limited in say, flying over to Denmark to meet with the crème de la crème of environmentally responsible companies. Or flying to Portland, for that matter. We’re not hugely intimidated by these shortcomings, but they are a factor.

3. Hello, shit economy. Nice to meet you.

4. Speaking of that little accident of my husband’s, we’re still dealing with the physical and psychological ramifications of that, e.g. extreme fatigue (him), anger/bitterness at the God/the world and the circumstances that befell us (mostly me), vision and other residual issues from the stroke (him), stress at having to help manage said issues (me), general confidence and can do attitude (him and me). Overall, things are improving and improving relatively quickly given what we’ve been through; he's made a recovery that defies the conventions of modern medicine and has worked his tail off to do it. We make a fantastic team, although it’s not always an easy or smooth ride. We’re taking it one day at a time though, and I’m pretty proud of us for doing that.

It will take both of us to translate this story into a reality (he has the people/business skills, and I’m the organizational and all-things-written one), and we’d love the opportunity to have extra guidance/direction/suggestions in doing so. If we attended the conference, we’d hope to gain some practical insights as to how we can use our God-given attributes and talents to get us from point A (the dream) to point B (the story realized) and walk away with a better outline for making that translation happen.

We’re ready to take a leap into the next part of our story, and we’re eager to move on past the black hole of healthcare that has consumed our last year into something better, brighter, and indicative of our desire to be world-changers on a scale beyond what we’ve done up to now.

This is the stuff stories are made of.

Thanks for your consideration.


p.s. Confession: I was the kid that hunted down, carefully opened, and then rewrapped her Christmas presents each year without ever getting caught. So the mystery package would be entrusted to my husband for hiding off the premises.

p.p.s. Don, I’ll never forget when a friend sent me Blue Like Jazz while I was in Kazakhstan. It helped me keep my perspective when times were hard. And made me laugh and cry in a good, constructive, self-reflective way.

px3.s. Any chance that for all of us not-lucky not-winners that you’d consider making any of the conference available via webcast? Please?

If you're interested in learning more about Donald Miller's Living a Better Story Seminar coming up in September, take a look at this:

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.


  1. katie,

    i'm the girl whose blog you commented on. my name is brittney. first, thank you so much for the note-it was thrilling to hear good feedback. writing is a thirsty little world...for me. so anyways, i was curious and came over to see who and what you were. my husband and i are sitting here drinking a glass of red, trying to have a calm moment at the end of a shitty week, and the peaceful moments were repeatedly interrupted by my exclamations of, "Gasp! They like Denmark!" and "Gasp! They want to help the US learn from the Scandinavian countries to see how we could stop being idiots when it comes consumption and building and living!" and "Gasp! She said shit!." We were happy. We were excited. And you are a great great writer. Clear, authentic, funny. Great story telling. I also go on and read the other posts and I really have to say, I hope you win. Not because of your tragedies, not because you wouldn't otherwise be able to go, but because you communicated your story so well and I truly believe in what you want to do with your lives. Regardless, please, please please do it. We NEED it! But, you know that. So, grace and peace and donald miller contest winning to you friend.

    2 questions though:
    how do you resist picking up and moving to Denmark or Sweden?!
    what is bonusmothering? googled and came up with nothin.

  2. I clicked on your story from the contest entry page. Just like MyBlissful above, I really appreciate your authentic writing voice. I also love God and like to write the word 'shit' (among others) when working to explain stuff the way it sounds in my crazy, jacked up head. And I think I hear God laughing sometimes, just as I'm sure you do... because you write with such a gifted sense of humor. God is cool like that and it seems... that there's a good chance... you are cool like that too. Good luck!

  3. Katie,
    Good luck! Of all the entries I've read, I love what you have to say and how you said it. I can so relate to "looking good on paper," yet feeling I'm missing something. As a minister's wife, a published author and a recent missionary to Ghana, I have that same feeling of wanting my story to mean even more. And all you've been through shames me for feeling sorry for myself for not hearing from God about how to write a better story.