The Night Donald Miller Changed My Life

Pour yourself some coffee, my friend. Or a mimosa. Whatever you need to settle in for one of the best moments of my life.  I’m probably about to plow through every word-count suggestion for blogs. But, when your life changes in one night, you should use as many words as you need.

So, remember how I told you I love the Storyline Conference? If you need a refresher course, click here to read a favorited post from the archives: Donald Miller is a Freaking Genius. Or click here, to read about the time I marched in a protest because I thought it was a parade, all inspired by Storyline.

This weekend was my second rendezvous with Storyline, and I have long awaited this trip. I registered months ago, and I’ve had a paper chain countdown going on. Such has been my anticipation.

Our weekend launched on Friday night with a dinner at a trendy club in Nashville. Donald Miller, the Storyline team, and 500 of his closest friends – with 500 more to arrive the next day. This place was filled with Storyline Groupies, and we were all thankful to have found one another. Storyliners get starry-eyed when you mention words like Inciting Incidents and Climactic Scenes and Redeeming the Negative Turns. We are like a Star Trek Convention, except instead of being compulsive science fiction junkies, we can’t quite get enough of the high of telling better stories with our lives.

Don came by to dismiss our table to the buffet line, and I said, “Could I just walk with you for a few minutes? I know you’re dismissing tables, but… well, I have something I need to tell you.”

He smiled and motioned for me to join him. “Sure, you bet. Talk to me,” said Don Miller, who is every bit author and every bit real person.

I said what I had hoped to say, in the moment I had prayed for, should I have the chance to have an honest-to-goodness conversation with DM. I didn’t want to be lost in a sea of adoring fans waiting for him to sign their arms. I wanted to have a legitimate conversation. Authentic. Real. No authographs necessary.

“Don, in 2012, I attended Storyline in Portland. I was sitting in the third row, and you asked for an example of an inciting incident, something someone could do to propel change in her life. I raised my hand; you called on me. I was a young widow. My husband had just died 15 months before.”

“Yes, yes. I remember you,” he said. I had his full attention.

“I told you that I was a single mom with two small boys, and I needed to inject some happiness into our lives. And you said, ‘Have you thought about writing a book about this?'”

He smiled. “I remember that.”

“And you said, ‘Let’s stay in touch. I want to see where this goes.’ Well, it’s been almost two years, and since I last saw you, I’ve written a book, I have an agent and a publisher, and my book will be released in February.”

Don Miller gives great hugs, and he swept me into one. The thing about telling him your dream has come true? You’re making his dream come true also. He’s the story guy. His story is to help us tell better stories.

“Tricia, that is fantastic. Would you be willing to share that story with everyone here tonight?”

“Absolutely. I would love to.”

(Sidenote: when I shared thie story with my Tuesdays later that night, one of the girls said, “Wait – I need to know what you were wearing.” I gave her the head to toe rundown, right down to the patent leather heels. She approved. “Okay. Go on.”)

After dinner, I joined Don at the front of the room, and he introduced me to the Storyline groupies. He said, “Here at Storyline, we collect stories. We love to hear what people are doing, the stories they are living, and tonight I heard a really great one. Tricia, tell them.”

1393116_10201624009629417_228989609_nHe handed me the mic, and I told them the story: the five-paragraph version of my life in the last three years. I finished, “…so in February of 2014, my book is coming out.”

They applauded and cheered, because we are groupies. (See above.)

And then – brace yourself, because this is H-U-G-E.

Don said, “We think there will be about 1800 people at our San Diego conference in February, and you need to come and be one of our keynote speakers. Are you in? And we’ll launch your book. New York Times and above. Let’s do it.”

The room roared.

I said, “Are you kidding me right now, Donald Miller?”

“I am absolutely not kidding you. In front of 500 people, I’m inviting you to be a keynote speaker in San Diego. This is what they call ‘an Inciting Incident.’ You in?”

And that’s how it happened, where I was standing, and what I was wearing, in the moment that my life changed. Because I’m pretty sure, there is something forever changed. Essentially, I won the writer’s version of American Idol.

There was applause. Photos. Cheering. And I couldn’t stop giggling. I said to Don, “You changed my life tonight. You know that, right?”

With classic, potent Donald Miller eye contact, he said, “Oh, we’re just getting started.”

As guests at the dinner, we were surprised with concert tickets to close out the evening, and the crowd of Storyliners streamed out of the ballroom and into the concert venue.

“Tricia! Are you coming?”

“Thank you so much, you guys, but I’m going to my hotel. I want to call my mom and dad.”

I came to my hotel room, set my purse on a chair, my room key on the desk, kicked off my heels, and I lay on the floor with my face to the carpet. And I was speechless before the God who has orchestrated this story. I have nothing, Jesus. I have nothing to give you. Oh, God. Thank you.

And please, could you tell Robb?

(My Tuesday said, “Wait. On the floor? The hotel floor? Tricia, that’s gross. Please go on, but promise me you won’t do that again. I get the whole falling-prostrate thing. But do it in your bed.”)

So, here’s some news: I belong to the Storyline Team. We’ll be in San Diego in February – with a book to launch.

February 27 – March 1, 2014.
Keynote speakers include Don Miller, Bob Goff, Anne Lamott,

and Tricia Lott Williford.

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39 thoughts on “The Night Donald Miller Changed My Life

  1. OMG. (<— I have never uttered, nor typed, those three letters before. Pinky swear. But this seems deserving. And I use them in a reverent way, praising My God! Only He is capable of orchestrating such beauty from ashes. )

    So so so excited for you.

    p.s.- I am totally with your Tuesday. On the hotel floor?! Ewww.

  2. Tricia, Okay. I must go to San Diego Storyline now. I’ve been wanting to attend, but now I think I really do have to go. I’m so so so thrilled for you. For all God is doing. All I’ve been praying that He would do since we first met with your new agent, my husband, at Panera, barely a year after Robb had died. And I thought to myself, “Lord, if life has allowed this sweet young woman and her little boys suffer this much pain, You really must promise me to find a way to bring purpose to it, to double her joy for the rest of her life.” Last night my grandson Nate said something that describes how I feel now: “I just can’t STAND how much fun we’re having!” :)

  3. This has got to be one of the most exciting things I have read that you have written. WOW!!!!
    The friend that I texted you about that was at the same conference asked me if I was thinking about going to the San Diego conference. Yesterday I was going to ask Pete if he wanted to go,
    do this as a couple since he loves Don Miller and is a writer himself. Tricia….this is SO EXCITING!!!!! God is soooooo GOOD!!!!

  4. He will take care of you. He never fails. And know that He will take care of you in a big way. All that is required is trust

  5. Oh, Tricia. I am so deeply moved by this demonstration of God’s love for His children. I’d fall on the floor too; anytime, anywhere. To Him be the glory.
    How great is our God! How blessed are you!!

  6. What a delightful and joyful story to read this morning. Congratulations, Tricia, and I’ve no doubt the Lord will use all of it to benefit countless other. Enjoy! (And if I can figure out a way to get there I’ll be cheering for you all the way.)

      • Jeremiah 29:11
        For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

        This has been my verse for three years as I worked and worked to gain my way to seminary in anticipation of ordination… I finally started this year, and I am living the hope and future! I’m so excited – squealing, really! – to hear this fantastic news about Tricia. Way to go, girl!!

  7. EPIC! And beautiful. God has really set you on an incredible path. And Ann Lammott?!! I know she’s one of your favorites, too. This makes me think about that verse that says that he will bless us with a measure that is pressed, down, shaken together and overflowing so much we can’t contain it. There’s so much to be happy about here, we all share it!

  8. No way! Incredible. You have done the hard work of processing your grief, Tricia..and apparently, God is proud. He is giving you influence and a platform. Praying for you!

  9. I have followed your story since the loss of your sweet Rob. My kids and I were the ones that left your boys the Rescue Heros and my girlfriends and I left you a necklace at your favorite Starbucks. I have prayed for you and your boys, loved every one of your stories and thought many times how I would love to have an authentic friend like you. I feel like I know you although I have never formally met you. I have seen you and your boys at Chick Fil A, or you all with your parents at Red Robin but have never approached you for fear of being that crazy, stalker lady. ;o) All that to say, I am crying tears of joy for you as I read this. Truly, our God is an AWESOME God! A huge congratulations to you, Tricia! I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more.

  10. This makes me so happy! Tears are streaming down my face. God makes things good, so good! Cheering and giggling with the rest of them!
    Love, Amanda
    Manhattan, KS

  11. This is amazing! I went to Storyline this year in February and might go again next, just to meet you! So excited for you. I have enjoyed your blog so much in the last few years – would love to say hi. :)

  12. Tricia, wow, wow, wow! I am so excited for you! Funny thing is, I had thought about going to the Nashville conference but ended up having a conflict with the timing of the weekend. Oh how I wish I could have been there in person to witness this! An amazing woman who serves an even more amazing God who is going to use you and your story in amazing ways! Wow!

  13. Wow! So proud to know you right now, Tricia. But more than that, so thrilled to see great things happening for you!

  14. Oh!!! Chills, chills, chills, and tears for you, Tricia! This is SO FANTASTIC!! That’s what our God can do! Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, He’s so great, He’s so awesome! Woo-hoooooo!!!! (And Anne Lamott will be a keynote speaker too?!! Wow!! Have your feet touched the earth yet?)

  15. I love this! I don’t know you and haven’t been to this conference, but now I want to go! I’d love to go to your session (or whatever) and hear your incredible story. And celebrate the blessings of our wonderful God. So cool!

  16. Tricia, I’ve been following your story from the beginning and I just wanted to say a huge congratulations to you. I have tears in my eyes and joy in my heart for you. Soli deo gloria!

  17. Tricia, I was in the audience this past weekend and got to hear you share this news with us! Beautiful. I love this and the before and after scenes I’ve read here! I’ll be sure to check out your book too.

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