The (Surprising) Common Thread

I’m just back from the Killer Tribes conference in Atlanta, where I got to mix and mingle with some amazing people, connect with old friends and make new ones, and geek out discussing storytelling, writing, and blogging all weekend.

The speakers this year included Ben Arment of Story Chicago, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom, John Saddington of 8BIT, and Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan.

The speakers all covered different topics, so I was surprised at a common thread that ran through so many of them: that the negative things that happen to us can be–as Ben Arment said–tragedy, or they can be trajectory.

I’ve seen this principle play out in my own life. For one (rather dramatic) example, my firstborn had cancer when he was a toddler. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, but I was flabbergasted by the sheer number of good things that came out of that time.

We don’t think our personal tragedies are going to birth beauty. But they can. They do.

Ben Arment said, “Frustration, sorrow, and heartache are unbelievable motivators. Frustration is a gift. My prayer for you is that great frustration would befall your life.”

I’ll be doing a lot of fun, practical conference follow-up this week. But I’ll also be reflecting on the things that are bringing me frustration, sorrow, and heartache.

And you better believe I’ll be dreaming about how those negative things can be turned into something beautiful.

Can you think of a time when frustration, sorrow, or heartache have brought about good things in your life?

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  1. Linda says:

    We spent a year in which my husband went from employed to unemployed to under employed before finally landing the job that he has now. We watched God’s people rally around us with both encouragement and cash. We watched God answer very specific prayers, things that I told no one but Him. It increased our faith in Him and our love for His people.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, wow. I can imagine how that situation would provide plenty of frustration, sorrow, and heartache. Thankful that you’re through it, and that positive things ultimately came out of that experience.

  2. Oh yeah. Our entire time of service overseas in missions. No details needed, but it was easily one of the toughest 4.5 years of our lives, as well as being some of the times of biggest growth for us both. It wasn’t fun, but I wouldn’t trade that period of time for anything.

    My 15 months working as a pharmacy tech is another example of something I NEVER want to live through again, but that taught me so much about myself. It pointed out all the ugly sides of me, and gave the Lord opportunities to chip away more of me to reveal more of him. Painful, horrible, necessary, and – in the end – worth the experience.

    You might enjoy a book I’ve been promoting recently for work: “Leadership and the Art of Struggle” by Steven Snyder.

    • Anne says:

      “It wasn’t fun, but I wouldn’t trade that period of time for anything.”

      I definitely relate to that sentiment. But golly, Carrie–4.5 years is a long time!

      Thanks for the book rec!

  3. Tim says:

    A few years back my job was under attack, and it was one of the most horrible experiences in all 53 years of my life (I wrote about it here: Loss of a loved one is the only thing I can think of that is worse than what I went through. Yet in the midst of it and afterward I found so much of God’s blessing pouring into my life.

    Looking forward to hearing mroe about the conference!


    P.S. On negative things being cause for either tragedy or trajectory, I’ll repeat what I tweeted: that which doesn’t kill us … can still hurt a lot!

  4. Jacey says:

    Hi Anne,

    That common thread struck me as well. I was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, when I was 14. The ways I have been able to encourage others in pain and deepen my relationship with God through this ongoing trial have been amazing.

    • Anne says:

      ” The ways I have been able to encourage others in pain and deepen my relationship with God through this ongoing trial have been amazing.”

      Jacey, that’s incredible. Thanks for sharing.

    • Anne says:

      I’m so glad! And if you want to know more about the conference, then let me know what it is….because this is all I planned to tell you about it! But I’m open to suggestions. 🙂

  5. Lesley says:

    yes! We’ve chatted via blog/twitter before about my husband’s cancer diagnosis last year. We both wish it would never have happened, and yet we feel blessed because of the journey.

  6. Jamie says:

    Ben Arment crushed me at KT. First, I have a speaker crush on him and I may need to go to Story this fall. Second, I think I may be changing the trajectory of everything…all of it… When I think about the frustrations and the heartaches – it means being transparent and vulnerable and who says there can’t be a sense of humor found there. We shall see what the coming days bring.

    I SO loved hanging out with you and the hubs. You are keepers.

    • Anne says:

      The trajectory of all of it? Dang, girl. I can’t wait to see what the coming days bring for you!

      And back atcha. We loved hanging out with you!

  7. Thea Nelson says:

    I love that this was a big take-away for a lot of people at KT. Can you imagine the redemption of all the tragedies represented in that room? 🙂 Amazing!

    I also saw a theme of being authentic online. That was a big challenge to me, personally.

    Thanks, Anne! Glad to meet you at Killer Tribes!

  8. Jeannie says:

    I like that tragedy-trajectory image very much. It seems to me that these lessons are something we can rarely impose on ourselves or others in the middle of a time of great suffering or crisis, but that they come clear more gradually, even in retrospect. We all know how painful it is to be told, during a tough time, “Look at the silver lining” or “We’re looking at the back of the tapestry where it’s all knotted, but God sees the front” or [insert cliche here]. And yet there is truth there which we do often see either after the crisis is over (if it is something with an end-point) or later on in the process (if it’s something more ongoing).

    My situation is one of the latter, a “chronic” issue. I have 2 children with special needs: my son in particularly is quite delayed developmentally (he is 10 but more like age 4). I don’t see him as a tragedy, but it is tough to think that he will likely not be much beyond child-level mentally, whatever age he reaches. BUT all that to say that there are gifts and blessings along the way: things I wouldn’t have known, people I wouldn’t have met, because of this experience. So yes, not to go on forever here, but clearly the speakers you heard are onto something universally true and real. Thanks for sharing about it.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, Jeannie, that has to be so tough. Thanks so much for sharing what that looks like–right when you’re all in the middle of it–in your own life.

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