Storyline Conference in Chicagoland

Don Miller hosts the Storylines Conference, a "pay-as-much-as-you-can-afford" event.
Don Miller hosts the Storylines Conference, a “pay-as-much-as-you-can-afford” event.

I love Chicago, so when the Storyline Conference and the NZ All Blacks vs US Eagles rugby game landed on the same weekend, I jumped onto Southwest Airlines and bought my tickets. They are quite disparate events. One the one hand the conference is a Christian gathering presenting coaching, leadership and writing inspiration in the premier American megachurch. Then there is international test rugby–a thuggish game played by gentleman (?).

Chicagoland is sooo much bigger than I ever imagined. In my previous visits I have flown into Midway Airport and taken the train to downtown. I have contained my experiences to inside the Loop with a few exceptions (Cubs game, White Sox game, Wheaton College visit with Sarah). I never rented a car in Chicago before.

Since the Storylines Conference is at the gargantuan church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, I decided to rent a car for my first 2 days. It was an hour from Midway Airport by car even in midday. As a daughter of the West, I do not like toll roads on principle. I especially do not like rental car clerks who do not explain if I have an electronic pass in the car or the etiquette of toll roads. (Come to think of it, she also did not offer a map and there was not one on the counter?!) After scrambling to find 60 cents in coins for the first toll I was thankful the second toll was manned and I could hand over dollar bills and get change. Eventually I arrived, picked up my nametag and slipped into the auditorium for the general session.

Author and speaker Shauna Niequest is the emcee for this edition of Storyline Conference. She is delightful. There was one break out session before the end of the day. I dropped in on Don Miller’s presentation on StoryBrand–a process for using story to define your company’s brand. We wrapped up with a special event–Asleep at Last played a short set of beautiful songs, and Don read from his to-be-released-book (Feb 3), Scary Close. Beforehand we ate deep dish pizza and shared stories from our workshops. Lots of writers are here and it is fun to share blog sites and experiences. I still had a long drive to my downtown hotel so I passed on the Christian rock concert.

Asleep at LastThis is the last conference for a while–they are not hosting a conference in 2015. So this one is jam-packed with a film festival, concert, and writers conference on Saturday. I will make the most of day 2 before I return the car and take the train back to downtown and shift to full time rugby fan.

San Diego and Storylines Conference

Even when it rains San Diego is still beautiful. I registered my daughter Sarah and myself for Don Miller’s Storylines conference even though it flying from Auckland and going straight from San Francisco Airport to Sacramento to fly to San Diego. It was worth the effort to hear Anne Lamott talk about her writing practice that same evening.

General Session at Storylines Conference, San Diego
General Session at Storylines Conference, San Diego

We quickly checked into Humphrey’s Half Moon Bay Inn and the desk clerk announced that we got a free upgrade to a suite. Lovely, at first. Our room was super roomy and had a plethora of televisions and a view of the marina. We had no opportunity to enjoy it as we spent the next couple of days at Point Loma Nazarene University for the conference. We were let down by housekeeping, including finding sand in my bed (and I never went to the beach!)

The Storylines conference attracts mostly “Jesus people” though not exclusively, and mostly 20-somethings though not exclusively. We connected with another mother-daughter pair from Oregon who offered transportation to a Denny’s to get something approximating dinner on Thursday night. We connected with other people over meals in the campus dining hall including two young woman who left for a New Zealand vacation the next week! It is not easy to generalize about why people were there, (Read Raechel Wong’s guest blog) I would guess that it was for spiritual growth and inspiration to live a more adventurous life. Most people had a more “millennial” attitude toward their faith–faith in action, not a spectator sport. One of the clear favorites at the conference was Bob Goff who had a line of people waiting for a word and a hug everytime he attended a session. My curiosity overwhelmed me and a I bought and read his book Love Does. Wow.

Sarah and I enjoyed our time in San Diego so much that she and her husband decided to return for a fun weekend. She is giving Humphrey’s another chance. It is a great location–near airport, on the shoreline.