the chapters in our stories

it’s always so darn serious around here at the carnival.  i don’t mean to be intense all the time, and i swear if you know me in real life i’m actually fun, hahah!  honestly, though, sometimes it’s nice to just chill a bit and not solve all of the problems of the church in one blog post.

this past week i had quite a few conversations with people about their stories, the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.  so many i know both in real life and online are in seasons of shifting, re-evaluating, healing,  jumping-off-cliffs-to-live-out-their-dreams.  and i was reminded of an exercise that i have used a few times in some groups and is part of one of the chapters in refresh, some material i co-wrote a few years ago.  while it was in the chapter on guilt & self-blame,  it’s really not focused only on those issues and i have found it useful when we are trying to embrace the bigger picture, the bigger story God is telling in us and through us.

it’s really a spiritual reflection exercise to give language to the seasons in our journey. it is a look back at the different chapters in our life so far and naming those chapters.  there’s no good or bad or right or wrong answers.  some chapters are probably uglier, funnier, better, and easier than others.  but they are all part of our story.  i also think it’s fun to think about the chapter being written now.  what is the season we’re currently in and what are we learning in the midst?

the exercise is called “the bigger picture, the bigger story”.  here’s an excerpt:

“often we get so caught up in the day-to-day of our present struggles that we lose sight of the bigger story.  God is telling a story in all of us and part of our journey is making sure we don’t miss the bigger picture by focusing in on only what is right in front of us.  here’s a fun exercise to help us see the themes of our lives and notice that the story isn’t just one chapter but the combination of many” (p. 63).

if your life was a book, what would the title be?

now think of some chapter names, following the guide below:

  • timeframe & chapter title:
  • birth to 5 years –
  • elementary years –
  • high school years –
  • college age –
  • then write in your own depending on the season.

here are mine:

my working title: downward mobility

  • birth to elementarythe little mom
  • elementarydear abby, why do they keep teasing me?
  • middle schooljello butt with the best personality (long story)
  • high schoolput on your happy face
  • collegenose to the grindstone
  • mid 20’sit’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s supermom!
  • 30’s inside out
  • now (i’m 42) – oh, what the hell, why not try?

the template is here if you want to give it a try: the bigger story (in microsoft word)

oh, i’d love to hear some of yours.  the other night at our house of refuge my friend said her book would be called “rising from the ashes.”  love it.  here’s to new and wonderful and weird and wild chapter titles ahead.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • My working title: “Not Only Did They Steal My Cheese, They Ate It on a Ritz Right In Front of Me!”

    Not really; I generally don’t blame others for my problems.

    So, here’s another one: “Turning Undead: My Life as a Zombie Killer”

    Nah . . . I’ve got nothing, yet.

  • How’s this: “Better Than It Ever Was: Leaning Toward Life”

    That has a ring to it, no?

    Watched that movie we discussed. Now I’m off to watch it again and craft a post . . . stay tuned . . .

  • “Not Only Did They Steal My Cheese, They Ate It on a Ritz Right In Front of Me!” ~tysdaddy

    That is freaking hysterical!

    I am still a little ‘tender’ in regards to the latest chapter of my life…This era could also be lovingly titled…This isn’t the Life I signed up for…but…I am hopeful there’s another chapter in the mind of the author.

  • # birth to elementary – unexpected spoiled surprise
    # elementary – it’s amazing what you can see with glasses
    # middle school –but coach, she’s better than us!
    # high school – there’s always a party somewhere
    # college – bible college blues aka busted again
    # mid 20’s –marriage isn’t so bad after all
    # 30’s – stepmom hell
    # now – diving in and I’m scared of water…who has the life vest?

    Ok Kathy, this is probably a very good exercise for me right now…I am going to do the long version before the week is out!!
    Love you!!

  • Kathy, your creativity is amazing! I wish I had time to do this whole thing, but I don’t….maybe soon. However, as soon as I thought about my “now” this just popped into my head:

    “Just TRY and put me back into that cage and see what you get!”

    I laughed out loud. It’s so great to be free and roaming around in the wild!


  • Book Title: Hey God, it only took me 35 years; My journey from church work to kingdom work

    birth to 5 years – being babysat on a bar stool in a bar
    elementary years – it is all about numbers (math whiz)
    high school years – okay God, ministry it is
    college age – eating church growth and evangelism books
    25 – 35 – growing the church (attendance,building,cash)
    35 – now – loving God, loving my community (no strings)

  • God is a Gentleman. He Prefers Blondes.

    birth to 5 years – Learning to Play, It is All Good
    elementary years – Sunnyside Up, Growing Up On the South Side of Town
    high school years – Playing with Demons, Working Hard Playing Harder
    college age – Threshing, Hey This is Like Church Camp
    post college – Playing with Angels, These are Grown ups?
    first ten years of marriage and motherhood – Da Bears, Returning to the South Side of Town
    this ten years – Playing with the Buckeroos, Go West Young Man

  • hmmm, not sure of my chapters, but I’m thinking maybe the main title might be: at the gates of hope.

    this is a good creative exercise to get rid of my writer’s block as I try to put samples together for mfa applications!

  • brian – oh so good. my favorite is the first one! i am so glad you liked synecdoche NY 🙂

    joy – yeah, some are definitely harder than others. i love your working title for this chapter, and it’s so true, isn’t it.

    donna – love yours! especially your “now”!

    tracy – oh that is so you! i sure wouldn’t want to be that person that tried 🙂 love it.

    jeff – thanks for sharing. love the progression, it is so beautiful!

    kk – thanks for playing. it is so fun to get a sense of people’s journies in some small way…

    ryan – keep me posted on this next leg of the journey, so fun to see the twists and turns and finding your passion!

  • Some times I think mine would be dazed and confused or Out of the World Wind and Into the Fire.

    I’m in a season where I know that I’m experiencing some person deconstruction in order to have parts of me rebuilt by Father that I decided to be come the builder of.

    It is a season in which I personally and in truth I believe the whole world is seeing everything that can be shaken, shaken and crumble to the ground so that it can be rebuilt. It is a season in which I’m being freed from some out right irrational fears.

    There really is a lot happening it seems all at once. Some of it I’m excited about and some of it I find out right uncomfortable and scary.

    I’m being vague, because I don’t want to take up any more space then I already have.



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