Catch the Story – My One Word 2017

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
― Patrick Rothfuss

We all love a good story.

Whether it be in person, on a screen, or on paper, we are drawn to stories.

How Will You Frame the Story?

I stayed in the background of this story a few weeks ago, but it left me changed:

“Shop with a Hero” was the setting. At-risk children in our community were hand-picked to be taken to a local Walmart store on this Saturday morning. Once there, they would be paired with a local “hero,” one of our first responders or educators or community leaders or military personnel. Together, the duo would shop together with a $100 gift card that had been donated to each child for Christmas from area churches and businesses.


Non-hero support personnel like me were only there to hang back with the parents, making sure they didn’t interfere too much with the child and hero’s time together.

The first set of heroes and family I followed was a 6 year-old African-American boy and the hero, an African-American police officer, decked out impressively in full uniform. Even before they were paired, the boy spotted the officer and ran over to hang on his leg. The officer laughed and said that decided it; they would shop together.

As they pushed their shopping cart through the aisles, I chatted with the boy’s mom but also listened to the boy and the officer. The boy was quiet, apparently overwhelmed at his choices for purchase.

But one by one, he began picking out items to buy. And I noticed a theme: toy guns.

Oh, no. That was my first thought. Here’s this child picking out gifts that will make him a criminal. What will the officer have to say?

But here’s what surprised me: The officer laughed and said, “Good! You’re going to make a fine police officer one day!”

I inwardly cringed at my initial bias. I hadn’t even considered this angle about boys and guns.

I liked the officer’s framing of the story much better than my own.

Your Stories Matter

The way we narrate our stories is important. The stories we tell ourselves about our lives matter. They are how we assign meaning to the events of our days.

“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn’t that make life a story?”
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Jesus used stories. He could move an audience from here to there with a story.

He still does.

And not just with stories we read in the Bible. But stories in our current times. The stories we lived through yesterday. The stories we’re walking in right now.

One Word 2017: Story

For 2017, I’m choosing “Story” as my One Word.


I want to notice and share the chain of events that make up our stories, sacred narratives that help us understand each other more clearly.

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Native American proverb

I’m using the StoryCorps free app to help me. It’s a way to record and keep conversations with those you love. The app suggests great questions or you can use your own.


I’ve already uploaded four casual interviews that we recorded over the Christmas break between family members, including a spontaneous interview with my youngest daughter Jenna here.

I invite you to uncover stories around you as well this year. Capture them. Connect through them.

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
– Barry Lopez

When we don’t hear the stories, we can judge each wrongly, harshly. Getting the stories wrong leads to misunderstandings.

But when we listen, investigate, go deeper, asking why and what and how, we get more than the facts; we get another piece of the image of God.

We learn to read what the Author has already begun writing. We witness to his work in each person’s life.

Let’s keep the stories coming . . .

* * *

Whose story do you want to know better this year? How can you make that happen? Have you chosen One Word for 2017? Please share in the comments.

Watch this TED talk from the originator of StoryCorps, Dave Isay. “Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear.” Or subscribe to NPR’s StoryCorps podcast here.


44 thoughts on “Catch the Story – My One Word 2017

  1. Valerie Sisco

    I just LOVE this story of your initial thoughts about the officer and the little boy! How insightful that seeing it from a different perspective changes everything, doesn’t it? And as one who loves words, I love your story word for 2017! It has so much beautiful potential tucked away in it, yet can flower as we open ourselves to others to hear their stories and share our own. Love it! Happy 2017! xoxo

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The officer and the little boy story continues to stick with me, just proving the power of story, yes? I look forward, too, to what God will open up through story in 2017. May you have many new adventures in 2017 as well, Valerie!

  2. Somer

    I am so glad I read this today I couldn’t agree more with so many things you said. I just read similar words to this last night. Kind of the idea that how you view your story and what you remember is what determines who you become. For years I’ve always wanted to compile lots of stories based on themes from all sorts of people. I’m going to watch this Ted talk and I’m going to look at these questions thank you for this idea!
    During a very dark time in my life when I wanted to quit everything and run away literally a phrase came from deep within my mind or maybe my spirit. “Don’t run from your story. I’m giving you your story. .” I remember kind of being shocked and a mix of hopefulness that something good could be wrought out of all of this yet lament that it also meant that I couldn’t give up. I couldn’t quit my story or slam the book shot just because I didn’t like the current chapters!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your comment is very encouraging to me, Somer! I’ll return to it throughout this year when I need motivation to stick with Story. Love this: “I couldn’t slam the book shut just because I didn’t like the current chapters” – that preaches! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jean Wise

    Love how you have identify an action to live out your word this year. Story is a great word and just think how rich you will be exploring it. Makes me wonder what specific action I could do with “attentiveness.” will pray re this. Thanks Lisa for this new insight.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I typically do better with my One Word choices when I can create a concrete plan. I’ve sort of done that this year, but not as much as in the past, so we’ll see how God takes it. 🙂 I look forward to your attentive year, Jean. Such a great word choice!

  4. Pam

    I LOVE this, Lisa! Stories are so powerful and it saddens me when we are so rushed, busy, or preoccupied we fail to notice or listen to the many that are around us. I loved this story!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know; I wonder how many hundreds of stories we miss because we’re too busy to notice them. 🙁 I hope to slow down enough this year to pick up a few more than I normally would. Happy New Year to you, Pam!

  5. Trudy

    I love the story of the little boy with the officer and his perspective, Lisa. I was thinking the same as you. I immediately cringed when I read about the “gun theme.” And my heart cried out for the young boy. But what a difference a respected officer can make in this boy’s life. Sometimes we have to look at the stories from a different angle, don’t we? I especially want to see stories through God’s lens, to see the bigger picture in it all. I always love your stories, so I’m looking forward to more. 🙂 Have a wonderful 2017! Love and hugs!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re very encouraging, Trudy–thank you so much. Can you imagine how differently the world would look to us if we could see each story through his eyes? The idea is inspiring! Praying you have a great new year ahead too!

  6. floyd

    Yep. We do love a good story. And I liked this one. The stories of our lives will be our legacy and if it points to humility it will be the story of grace we received. A story that will never go out of style, not even in eternity.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re a master story-teller, Floyd, so this word would come easily to you. I always enjoy reading your stories and the insights you share behind them. Praying for a great new year for you and your family!

  7. June

    Looking back over some of what you’ve shared in 2016 I can see just a hint of how God has been working you toward this theme, Lisa. I imagine the picture is much clearer on your side of blog, lol! It’s funny, last year I remember thinking how perfect your word choice was and I feel the same way again this year! One of the things I love most about you is how you genuinely connect with people. Listening to their stories is one reason you do that so well. I’m excited to see how your story, as part of HIStory, continues to unfold in 2017!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, June…I do think God has been steering me this direction for awhile, so hopefully I can deepen that with him this year. I appreciate how encouraging you always are, June! I wish I could sit down with a box of hot Krispy Kreme donuts and hear more of your story. 🙂

  8. BettieG

    This is such a great Word for your New Year! I have been so moved by the stories you share here, just in the short time I’ve been coming to your site! I especially love this quote today: “If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.– Barry Lopez” Wow, how true! My Word for the year is “Stillness” but I think that I will be hearing many stories as I lean in to quiet my own thoughts more. Blessings to you this year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That quote moved me too, Bettie. I love how God created a need for story inside of each of us. Stillness is a wonderful word choice! I’ll look forward to how the Lord will move through that word in your life in 2017.

  9. David

    Dear Lisa

    You are a good story teller. I like the way you tell the Shop with a Hero story. The app sounds creepy I’m afraid: yet another data-harvesting app.

    I’m thinking of “Expectations”, partly inspired by “Better than Before” which I’ve just started (thank you:). I want to remind myself that, whatever I’m doing, I’m strengthening/weakening my expectations of myself. I’ve started playing around with it: “I expect I’ll be asleep soon”, “I expect I’ll finish this by the weekend”, etc.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The app isn’t for everyone I suppose. And it definitely needs to be used with care. Some people do tend to overshare; others undershare I guess? A topic for another day. “Expectations” is an excellent choice! I love the examples you list; I could use that for sure in many ways, including…”I expect to sleep through the night” etc.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This was my first year to participate in Shop with a Hero, but it was great fun! It was cool that I ran into my sister and her family there—they were actually heroes. 🙂 My sister is an educator, her husband is a firefighter, and my niece is a 2nd year teacher.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m not surprised that you’re on this already, Anita. I saw the TED talk last year but didn’t do anything with it. Sometimes ideas have to sit with me awhile before I act. 🙂 I’ll look forward to hearing how this works with your students!

  10. Jennifer Dougan

    Hi Lisa,

    This is the first year I chose a word, and I’m excited about it. I chose Brave.

    How neat to read your story of the Shopping with a Hero, and of the encouraging policeman! I like your story focus this yea for your word. Have you read any of Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand years” and heard about the conference that he and Bob Goff do on storying our lives? The theme in that book and in Goff’s book “Love Does” was inspiring and encouraging, because you’re right: we choose our stories.

    Jennifer Dougan

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I have read Donald Miller’s book and loved it! I’d forgotten that he and Bob Goff had done those conferences. I wonder if they still do; I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for reminding me, Jennifer. I love your choice of “Brave”, but I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to choose it. ha. I suppose that means that I really need it! I’ll look forward to hearing how God works it through you in 2017.

  11. Horace Williams Jr

    Thanks for the visit this week Lisa. I love your word for the year. Stories are something that we all have to share in our own uniqueness. Something you wrote really stood out to me in this post. “The way we narrate our stories matter.” I am always prayerful before sharing my stories. It’s my hope that God is at the center of each story I share. As you found out when you dropped by my site, my word for 2017 is patience. I am going trust God in His choosing this word for me. I look forward to the stories that develop this year and I will definitely share. May God bless you and yours in 2017.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You have some great stories to share already, Horace, and I know God will develop more in you in this new year. I look forward to watching him work in each of our lives!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My word Story seems much easier than your word Surrender. 🙂 But I know God will work through each one individually and powerfully. I look forward to seeing what he’s going to do.

      1. Beverley

        I guess it comes down to the fact that i cannot fight God anymore, but if there is something specific he wants me to do, then he needs to speak a little louder so i don’t make mistakes.

  12. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I’m a big fan of stories. I love to hear other people’s experiences, so I’m all for ‘keeping those stories coming’!
    I never heard of StoryCorps before, but I did go over and hear your interview of your daughter. What fun! And she seemed so prepared and was so well spoken. You must be so proud of her.

    I hope that 2017 is a year full of stories to hear, and stories to create. Can’t wait to hear about some of them here!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Ceil. We weren’t prepared at all for that little interview, but it was great fun to do anyway. 🙂 I definitely am proud of my daughters and look forward to the new things God will bring in their lives this year. But we’ll all step inside some new stories this year for sure!

  13. christina

    What a fun and interesting word! We’ve enjoyed the StoryCorps animation we’ve seen here and there on PBS. It doesn’t surprise me that an app exists. Enjoy your exploration of the theme this year.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Christina. It’s been fun already using the app, but I can tell I’m going to have to be diligent to stick with this theme. It’ll be easy to let it slide under the radar. 😉

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