3 principles to shaping your story


Do you ever feel that your life has become so complicated, fast-moving, ever-changing, that your story may be spinning out of control?

Me, too.

Here are some pieces of my story . . .

3 principles to shaping your story - belong magazine blog - creative female entrepreneurs

Before graduating in May, I watched our daughter pose for her senior portrait on the giant rocks of Beluga Point, Alaska. She was beauty and grace and maturity, no longer the scrappy young girl with long tangles blowing in the wind, as she raced her brother along the banks of the Copper River. How did she change so fast? She now slips past me to climb new mountains and face new challenges all her own, as my intense season of mothering comes to a close. She’s ready. But am I?

One hundred-eighty miles northeast of Anchorage, Alaska, in a tiny rural community, the only home we own stands vacant – a “For Sale” sign staked in the front yard for five long years now. We loved that house. Our kids grew up there, wandering its acreage, learning the lessons of life together. But will anyone else ever love those beams and sheetrock as much as our family once did?

Sitting in my quiet writing room in Anchorage, my oldest at work, my youngest building his latest Lego project, I find peace. The windows are open wide, filling the room with clean, cool mountain air, and I look out to the deep blue sky and spectacular snow-capped peaks just beyond. Writing. Breathing. Living.

My story – joy, disappointment, anxiety, contentment.

Studying my life, I realize how little I understand it, how little control I have over its pieces. But I know this: all the pieces of my story are fitting together and they are adding to the pieces of others’ stories, creating a living canvas, ever-changing. This is one of God’s gifts to us – the complexity of our stories connecting, reshaping, and forming an elaborate collage of life.

Feeling out of control with all of these many moving pieces? Here are three simple principles to help us live fully and presently, finding peace and fulfillment in the story.

Principle 1: Live Simply

The world constantly battles for our wandering attention. Simplicity and focus quiet the noise that comes from without and allow us to find the peace that comes from within.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I ask myself these questions:

Am I losing focus because I’m trying to complete more than one task at once?

What unnecessary things are distracting me from the important purpose I have in this moment?

Do I constantly fill my time with busyness, while attempting to live a simple life?

Without a doubt, slowing down is a necessary part of living simply. Relaxing our pace permits time to deepen important relationships, listen well to others, listen to our own thoughts.

Refusing to give in to the constant rush makes it possible to instead live in this very moment. A life well-lived ebbs and flows, varying in different hours and seasons but never rushing.

Embrace the natural, simple flow of your story.

Principle 2: Live Fully

If I were the one writing my story I’d probably write it in tans and grays, safe and routine. I’d choose the abridged version leaving out many of the details contained in the dramatic scenes and distressing parts. I’d want to tie it up neatly and bypass the challenging difficulties: when my finances fail or my teenager rebels or my health is compromised. I’d skip the unpleasantness of rocky relationships and tough consequences for poor decisions.

But then I’d only live a partial life. I would miss the chance to live out the rich story God has written for me, revealed in the scenes of a real life: our baby rolling over for the first time; stumbling upon the love letters of a young GI now known as Grandpa; welcoming the droopy-eared, scruffy shelter puppy as part of the family; the kindergarten graduation, the marriage proposal, the holding of Grandmother’s hand as she passes on to glory.

These are God-given full-of- life moments . . . real moments.

Living fully means embracing every extraordinary joy and each crushing sorrow because these make up my full story. Sometimes my story makes me laugh hysterically and sometimes it makes me cry miserably and sometimes I’m utterly speechless. I want - but more than that - I need to feel all of it. And when my story intersects with your story I want to be all there, feeling life together in a big way, watching your story fully blossom, too.

Principle 3: Live Today

Our stories are intricately filled with daily life lessons. God speaks to us through our moments, reminding us that we live one small step at a time, day by day. What is God teaching me right now through this situation? Our Maker knows how we learn and He offers ample opportunities to test what He’s teaching us.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. Listen and learn through your own story this very day. We have no promise of tomorrow. Living fully in the present means we won’t spend most of our time creating contingency plans focused on the future. Concentrating on the future leaves us lifeless anyway, because when we only look ahead we miss God’s gift of today.

Right where you are, this is your God-given story: your start-up business, your three littles at home, your husband-wife partnership, your in-home studio, your care taking of aging parents, your walking the dog, getting the groceries, washing the car story.

Your story. My story.

These are our moments – all of them. Live them. And never forget that others’ lives are depending on the full unfolding of them.

Live life simply, fully and presently. With mindfulness, you can one day look back over your life with satisfaction – a life you have truly lived.

Originally from the Deep South, Natalie has served for the last 11 years alongside her husband and three children in the Far North of Alaska, with SEND International. True to her southern roots, she loves sweet tea, front porch rocking chairs, and a strong cup of morning coffee. Natalie loves to write about her many Alaskan experiences and has a passion for sharing with others how they can step out in faith to be a part of God’s plan in the world – whether near or far. You can connect with her at The Arctic Travelogue or @1wordpic.arctictravelogue.

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