No Knight Is Ordinary

26 Jul

Sarah’s driveway in rural GA

It is a night like any other.

If you are in Georgia, this means it is hot, humid and there might be a breeze blowing. If you are lucky, of course. Pollen isn’t as thick as it was in Spring, though it still has a firm grip on the air. The leaves are full and the forests are thick. But, it was on a night like any other that most remarkable things happen. Maybe not in Georgia. Okay, mostly not in the sweet ol’ southern state of Georgia. Remarkable things do happen though. Things like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars happen. People like C. S. Lewis, Donita K. Paul, and Wayne Thomas Batson are born.It also happens that a very small, insignificant thing called E. E. B. happened on a night like any other. No, the world doesn’t know about it. (not yet anyway. I’m working on nefarious plots… don’t tell Brooke!) In fact, almost no one knows about it… except for you. And one or two people on Figment.

Which probably means you want an explanation.

Well, you see, my life began…

I’m kidding! We’re not going back that far. Actually, the idea of “Elizabeth E. Brookes” formed when an 8 and 9 year-old decided they wanted to write books. For a living. At 8 and 9. Granted, you don’t need to make a living when you’re 8 or 9 (Thank you parents. Now. As in — right now. You’d be more than mostly dead without them.), but said 8 and 9 year-old were determined.

They sat outside in the little ol’ school house and wrote their first story The Kids at Crystal Cove together. In a few days. It was a magical book with only a paragraph to a page and size 18 font… the not-so-eight-and-nine-year-olds might possibly be ashamed of said work. Now. Then, it was a masterpiece.

We only stole ideas from about 20 books… among them Little House on the Prairie (FYI — I can never spell “prairie” right…)  and The Chronicles of Narnia. We don’t talk about that book much anymore save in hushed whispers so that no one else can hear. (You mustn’t tell anyone else I told you about it, okay? Brooke might strangle me.)

But that wasn’t the end.

Silly parents, writing isn’t a phase.

So, about a thousand 3 hour phone conversations, 20 outlines and 11+ manuscripts later… well, I’d say Elizabeth E. Brookes was pretty unified.

What is EEB?

Well, it’s me (the insane, mentally-unstable kid of the group). And Brooke. (Brooke’s the genius of the operations, by the way.) Brenna. And Christ.

Yeah, you read this whole post just to find out we’re Christian. Strongly Christian, actually. No! Don’t run away! Not until I’ve finished!

Yes, EEB is a “group” of three teenage (now high school aged) girls who love God more than anything else. Who are determined to become published. And who became what the little 8 and 9 year-old wanted them to be — authors. Although we have massively busy schedules and a number of insane endeavors, we have all continued to write.

A lot.

As in, psychological issues will develop when we don’t write. Exciting stuff, really.

It’s an interesting, not-so-average, adventure. With our characters talking our ears off, you can expect that sanity is not among our collective traits. But we do know that this is a passion. And as we continue to write, read, and love our Savior, Jesus Christ, we hope that you’ll learn to love it as well.

It’s a long road ahead of us. But it’s the King’s Road. And He does not lead His servants astray.


You are welcome to explore our blog and the King’s Road!


If you’re not sure where to go next, here are some great places to start!

  • Check out our About Page to find out more about who and what EEB is and stands for!
  • Each of us have what Sarah decided to call a “desk” where we keep you informed on what we’re doing. Desks are a place where you can ask us as individuals any questions you may have, and also a place where you can preview some of our latest work!
  • The Archives are a place where you can find all of our posts sorted into neat categories that have to do with the subject matter discusses. The archives also serve as a place where you can see the most recent posts and scan through them quickly.


We’re so glad you’re here and can’t wait to start getting to know you!

Confirmation: We Are Not Dead (yet)

24 Mar

Hello, followers! I hope the new year is going well for you all. This is just to confirm we haven’t gone anywhere; EEB is still currently a thing, but we’ve been too busy to upkeep it lately.

Life decided to explode on me a few weeks ago and I was brought to a place where suddenly nothing seemed very stable, excepting only that I and the others around me are healthy. I feel like everything else (college, where I would live if I go to college, graduation, careers, writing, relationships, faith, hope, etc.) was pretty much taken out of its nicely organized “boxes,” if you will, and shattered on the floor in a million pieces. And this is the time where I’m like “What the heck am I going to do with all this?” Yep. That’s been my life in a nutshell lately. The good news is all of this has been a step of faith: a lot of people and tasks, such as writing, that I had been relying on for strength couldn’t bring me any comfort (I mean, duh, they were the source of my problems!) God was the only One who could help me and I probably wouldn’t still be here without Him. So I have this hope, and because I have it, I’m going to make it 😉

Also, Sarah’s life hasn’t been any too easy lately, either. She is currently undergoing a modern torture device called college chemistry. Bless her heart.

On a brighter note, Sarah and I did get together a few weeks ago as children again (complete with pictures at a playground per request of Madame Bramblebutt herself) and that was a very invigorating, sunny day full of reminiscing old times and making fresh memories. Hopefully I’ll put some pictures on here soon. 🙂

All this said, we haven’t had much time for writing during the past few months.  Not to say we haven’t been thinking about it. Because we have. And hopefully, you will see a real post soon.

Rumors: I might be rewriting “Irish Hearts Never Lie.” Sarah and I might be planning another book idea. Or we might not. I guess you’ll have to wait and see. We will try not to keep you waiting long.

Have a happy Easter, everyone! We will talk with you soon.

And no matter what life throws at you, don’t stop believing!

1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

EEB is Expanding into Social Media!

5 Jan

Brooke hath decided to link her Instagram account with EEB and vice-versa. Meaning, her Instagram will now be a compilation of real-life events with writing endeavors on the side- a deadly combination which will probably cost her a lot of her friends who may not be familiar with the psycho-manic craziness…


Click on the picture to follow!

How to Properly (and Discreetly) Purge your Home from Lingering Holiday Guests

4 Jan

The Christmas tree is dried up and brown; the roasting chestnuts have burnt over the open, dying fire; the local radio station has gone back to its regularly scheduled programming; and the left-overs are all gone…except for those lingering guests. You strive to be a good hostess, but having company for a long time can be quite exhausting! I know the feeling, dear. If your merry mood has mellowed into fatigue because of the overly-festive company, try these trustworthy tricks to purge your house from the stress of extended guests:

  1. Be even more annoying than they are: Laughing loudly at everything and developing a midnight cough is very effective. You could also wake up the company with vigorous Scottish songs from iTunes. Nothing says good morning (and goodbye) like a jaunty blast of bagpipes at 4:30 a.m.!
  2. Casually complain about the mice in the attic. Oh, and was that a cockroach you saw in the kitchen cupboard?
  3. Start a feud. Do so casually. Need some debate starters? Ask everyone what they think about Bill O’Reilly or Donald Trump.
  4. (Conveniently) run out of the necessities. No milk, no toilet paper? Big problem.
  5. Burn candles that have an obnoxious scent. Peppermint mixed with citrus, anyone?
  6. Go natural for the day. No deodorant or toothpaste is a must.
  7. Make new plans and then act surprised when the guests are still hanging around. Ask them politely, “Didn’t you know that today was the day we were planning on going to the natural history museum?”
  8. Declare it National House-cleaning Day and ask everyone to pitch in. This tactic will automatically remove any lazy people or asthma sufferers you may have under your roof.
  9. Redo the bedrooms-one by one until all the guests are gone because they have nowhere to sleep.
  10. Adopt a puppy. Warn the guests that he has not been potty-trained. As a side note, tell them that he has a nasty habit of biting people he doesn’t know very well.
  11. Busy yourself in nothing. Become absorbed in learning the art of some strange task. Or, if you are not up to the challenge, call a gossipy friend and stay on the phone all day. Whatever you do, just be sure to ignore the guests at all costs.
  12. Start taking down the Christmas decorations. Unplug the lights and tear down the garland! Nothing says “the fun is over” like taking down all the holiday hoopla.

I feel certain that these tricks should work, but in the bizarre and highly unlikely event that they should fail, remember to mind your manners because you don’t want to be known as a rotten hostess. As long as the holidays seem, they won’t last forever. If worse comes to worst, just brew some hot chocolate, sit down, and quietly remind yourself that the holidays come just once a year.


Best Wishes, Darling,

~From the Elegant Snoot.

Merry Christmas From EEB!

24 Dec

13 days until Christmas…one week until Christmas…ONE DAY UNTIL CHRISTMAS!?! We’ve all been anticipating Christmas for the last 364 days, but somehow it seems to get here faster each year, which is ironic because I’ve been seeing Christmas commercials since Halloween! A couple of weeks ago a lady at my church suggested that the commercials may be the very reason Christmas seems to come earlier each year. She guesses that the premature advertising makes us immune to the fact that it is near. After all, when the TV starts talking about the holidays while pumpkins are still floating around everywhere, I’m usually thinking, “Let me enjoy fall! Christmas is a whole 6 weeks away!” But those six weeks disappear before I can say “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

As we enter the final flurry of holiday rush, trying to find the “perfect” gift for everyone on our list, I can almost hear God asking, “Have you accepted my gift?” No matter how long we shop or how hard we work, we can never top or even match the gift of Jesus! And above the loud chaos at the mall and the adrenaline rush of the season, God whispers at our souls with silent urgency. Do we have grateful hearts full of Jesus?

Taking all of this a step further, I see a similarity of the coming of Christmas to the Second Coming of Christ. However, there is one big difference in preparing for that day: no one has any idea when it will be. But what if it was tomorrow? We put so much effort into the coming of Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ First Coming to earth. But what if we were getting ready for His Second Coming as vigorously as we prepare for Christmas? How much more might we accomplish if we thought of the world, and of our lives, as lasting only for a season instead of becoming “immune” to our temporal state? Once the holiday season is over, what if, instead of running around the mall trying to find gifts for everyone on our lists, we went after spreading the Gospel with the same catalyst of love and acknowledged shortage of time which comes with Christmas?

I will now leave you to ponder these things, and enjoy this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I hope you take some time to sit and think about God’s humbling gift of Jesus and find peace in the fact that we cannot give or write or do anything in comparison with what He accomplished 2,015 years ago with Christ.

Merry Christmas from EEB! 🙂

The (Real) Breaking of The Fellowship

10 Dec

Don’t be alarmed. This is not the end of EEB! This is a post about life, not a warning. We’ll be around for a while longer, God willing 🙂
Over the past few months, I have found surprising strength in God. Radically. Throughout the whole time, however, something hadn’t been quite right yet. I felt like I was taking awkward baby steps against high tide and didn’t quite have a heading. I was confused, but kept going. And even though I’m still growing, obviously, I think a lot of this confusion just culminated into answers while I was praying and reading my Bible a couple of days ago. I was praying about something in particular, which I will explain to you in a few minutes, and I opened up the Bible, looking for help. God pointed me to a scripture I had no idea existed in the context I was thinking, but it perfectly fit what I needed. Tears streamed down my face as all the pieces suddenly flew into place…it was amazing and broke my heart all at the same time.
It all started back in the summer. I had just learned that some people I knew didn’t think the same way I did about religious matters, which troubled me. They were Christians in the sense that they believed in Jesus Christ and God made the world, but we differed on a lot of other issues. And for some reason, I have the weird tendency to assume people think the way I do and to assume they’re perfect. When I realize this is not case (as it obviously never is), I tend to say, “Oh, that person needs help. He/she is broken and needs Jesus.” What hypocrisy! I always forget what I mess I am in. None of us are perfect.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to take disappointment. I kept trying to either defend the people in my mind and actions, or completely rejecting them. I prayed about it, and honestly I thought that both actions didn’t seem quite right: it seemed a bit extreme to avoid these people like I was a perfect saint since the only Real Perfect Holy Person died for them, but at the same time it was a really stupid idea to try to copy their mistakes! Anyway, I kept praying about it, but feeling confused. And then fear crept in, which only added to my confusion. What if I had to say goodbye? What if God was trying to tell me to go? And then what if He wasn’t? What if He put these people in my life so that we could grow in faith together and I was supposed to be His hand in guiding them? I couldn’t decide which one was worse because either way it would require more strength than I thought I had.
I decided, at least for the time being, that the best idea was to serve God in all I could and try to keep my spiritual ears open, but honestly it’s hard to be unbiased when you want Someone to say something.
For the next few months, I went through some terrible times. Some days, I became almost embittered, becoming scornful in an attempt to let go of these people. I tried to tell myself that I do without them; I tried to convince myself that I was strong and had the strength to “defy gravity,” so to speak. I had the Lord, so why did I need people anyway? These days didn’t last very long. After all, who has ever heard of a “wicked” Christian, pun intended? It became very clear that this was not the way of the Lord.
The other days were just as bad, if not worse. If I wasn’t copying these other peoples’ mistakes, I was living in fear of losing them, or perhaps doing both at the same time. Needless to say, it was a terrible, terrifying place to be.
Yesterday and today peace finally began to fall upon me. I was still worried, but I had decided that I was going to follow God no matter what. I was thinking about some friendships, almost dead, which had been hanging in the shadows for some time, and was nearly sick with worry. What if the same thing happened to my other friends and family who I had already been worrying about for months? The friendships I had already lost stung badly…I was still not healed from some broken relationships which had spiraled a long time ago. It would nearly break me if something like that happened with anyone I really knew well and loved. Once again, I prayed. I needed comfort, and answers. I didn’t know how to deal with not knowing the future. I didn’t know how to deal with disappointment. I didn’t know how to deal with tough times, or troubled relationships, or goodbyes, now or later. And then a miracle happened. I opened the Bible and found myself in Ezekiel. I flipped back a few pages, trying to find something to read and feeling literally lost because I didn’t think Ezekiel was almost in the New Testament (I don’t know the exact order of the books of the Bible like I should…) Then I “stumbled” upon Kings and found the passage where Elijah is taken up into heaven. As it turns out, this was God’s direction, not me simply browsing through the pages.
I had read about Elijah being taken up into heaven before, probably in a kids’ illustrated Bible, but I had never noticed his apprentice, Elisha. If you can picture Elijah as Frodo Baggins and Elisha as Sam, then you get a good idea of their relationship. As I continued reading, “The Breaking of The Fellowship” even started playing in the back of my mind, which certainly didn’t help the flood of feels I was going through by this point, nor did hearing my brother playing a moving rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on a CD player down the hall. In the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Sam follows Frodo from the beginning of their journey through the end, and then to the final moments of Frodo’s life on Middle Earth, when he sails to the Grey Havens, which is basically a heaven for elves in the book. The story of Elijah and Elisha reads the same way. Over and over again, Elijah tells Elisha to leave him, but each time Elisha replies, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:2). Time travels on, and other prophets ask Elisha if he knows that the Lord is about to take Elijah away from him and up into heaven. He responds, “‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘but do not speak of it'” (2 Kings 2:3).
And then the climax of my emotional battle came when I read what Elijah asks Elisha just before his departure for heaven. 2 Kings 2:9 says, “When they had crossed [the Jordan River], Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’” (2 Kings 2:9). Several things hit me all at once, and I began to cry. Then the most amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit began to communicate with me clearer than ever before; it was actually like God was right there holding me. I broke down.
I realized that Elijah’s words needed to become my attitude towards everyone because I would have to tell them all goodbye one day. Everyone. Friends, family, everyone… not just fleeting friends who visit for a season and then move on. I had already been thinking about one person in particular through all of this turmoil over the past few months….in fact, throughout this post I have been saying I was concerned about “people,” but in reality I was mostly concerned about one person who I love, and whose position in my life seems most uncertain and unpredictable. Well, when all of these thoughts began to unfurl, this person immediately came to mind, and then Sarah. I didn’t know why she came to mind, unless I was thinking of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha because over the years she has definitely been an Elijah and a Sam to me. She has guided me through many a Mordor! However, at the moment, I still wasn’t sure why I was thinking about her in particular; I did figure this out the next day, however, and I will explain in a moment. But while I was thinking about Elijah’s attitude and inevitable goodbyes, I suddenly had a shadowy mental image of a light in a dark tunnel, and stairs. I suddenly believed in God and in heaven more than ever before; it was like I was catching just a glimmer of things to come. I felt just a drop of God’s presence deep in my heart, and it was enough to totally make me believe like never before. While all of this was going on, God seemed to be whispering in my head, “Can’t you trust me with these people? I have them safely under my wing and we are all going to be together in heaven one day. Because of this, there is nothing in this world that can truly separate you from them. You might be apart from them for a little while, but I’m not trying to separate all of you in the long run. So why would you try to blame me when goodbyes come, and why are you worrying about when you are going to have to tell them goodbye? Can’t you trust me?” This was the first time I had felt so much confidence about all of the believers I know (and the ones I don’t know) being together forever someday; it was amazing! It also showed me that my focus had been in the wrong place. I had been too concerned about “forever” in the earthly sense of the word, forgetting that “forever” literally means eternally in the spiritual sense and is much more important than anything which “matters” down here on earth. The good news is that, while earthly forever is somewhat of a myth, spiritual forever is a truth and it was the one God was giving me confidence in!
I realized that since goodbyes are inevitably coming, we must each be warriors. We must be strong enough in our own faith to stand and lift others up when they fall, and we must have enough faith to keep fighting after life or death has taken our fellow warriors away from us for a time. However, all the while we must be gentle enough to receive help and to give as well as receive love. We’ve got to have special people in our lives without becoming overwhelmed by the fear of goodbye. Essentially, we’ve got to be fearless warriors. For years I had read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” but honestly I didn’t, and probably still don’t, fully comprehend it. To me, it seemed like one of those pious sayings which mean well, but, well, don’t mean a whole lot, like “Bless your little heart.” But really, it means that we draw all our strength from the Lord.
I did discover why Sarah was in that vision, and it does have something to do with finding strength in the Lord. The next day I talked to her, and discovered she wasn’t as perfect as I had always imagined. She was going through hard times, too, which I somehow didn’t believe was possible for her to do and probably why I hadn’t opened up to her so much about some of the problems I was facing. While I was talking to her, though, it hit me: our strength does come from the Lord and everything we do is supposed to be modeled after Him. In our lives there are many “idols,” but once we are past the stage of “monkey see, monkey do,” I strongly believe that there are no more “role models,” just “role virtues.” This is because we all stumble, and if you think people are perfect, you will be sorely disappointed. And this is going to sound very hypocritical, but when I hear other people aren’t perfect, I tend to label them as “a mess,” quite forgetting that I am in the same boat! Some days, I am not even in the boat, metaphorically speaking; I’m holding onto a lifesaver outside of the boat, fighting waves of doubt. Point being, we do have spiritual leaders in the Christian community, yes, but I really don’t care if you are a new Christian, devout Christian, pastor, etc. If you are breathing in this world right now, you and I have equal chances of letting doubt and the world overtake us without God’s help. If you are in doubt right now, I urge you to keep going. God is with you, even if you can’t see Him, and I promise He will speak to you, as He spoke to me after months of waiting. And I will live by Elijah’s standard: I want to do what I can for you before I am taken from you or before you are taken from me. If you are a Christian, you are my family and we are supposed to lift each other up and pray for each other because no one in this world is free from doubt and we are all in the same boat. If you are not a Christian, then I wish you would talk to me all the more because there is hope in Jesus Christ!
So as the world rages and falls into the dark shadow of Mordor, stay strong, my friends. Keep fighting the good fight in Christ’s name, as He gives you as much strength as you need for your calling. Love your friends, family, and everyone you come into contact with, no matter how long or short you may know them. Don’t worry about how much time you have on this earth, or how much time you have with people, but trust that God, who has them all safely in His hand, will give you just the right amount of time needed. And then use that time wisely. Pull the lost around you into our boat so that more people will be a part of the Lord’s promise of bringing all of the believers together again in heaven. I can hardly wait until we are all together with God in a true “Fellowship of the King.” 🙂

Best hopes for your journey! We’re here for you all.
If you are still here, thank you for reading this super-long post! I hope it was a help to you. And just so you know, there will be more posts in the near future. 🙂

A Look Into My Daily Writing Routine

16 Nov

I thought I would share a blog post by my writer friend Bo Burnette. His post describes his typical day in the writing process, which brings me to a thought-provoking question: what does your writing life look like? Do you have a routine, or do you wing-it by the day? Respond in comments!

Source: A Look Into My Daily Writing Routine

I’m Just Not Feeling It

1 Nov

“I’m just not feeling it”- a popular expression we hear all the time, meaning “I don’t feel inspired” or “I don’t like it.” Basically, it’s just a fancy technical word for quitting.

Today at church my pastor talked about emotion, about how it’s God-given, and not good or bad in itself. In particular, he was talking about anger. I want to talk about compassion, however, and apply the points he made to this principle (strangely enough, a lot of the conversation can apply, even though compassion and anger are often assumed to be on opposite ends of the spectrum!)

Because emotion in itself is neutral, it can be used to harm or help us depending on how we use it. When talking about anger, the pastor noted that there are two types: there is sinful anger (this is the “I am going to kill you slowly and painfully” kind) and then there is what he called sanctified anger. While sinful anger is obviously bad, hence the name “sinful anger,” the sanctified anger is not bad when wielded properly. When we become angry over injustice, for example, there is no shame in that. But this leads to the next point the pastor made: don’t just become angry… DO something about it! He said the Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin”[d]:Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger doesn’t do us any good if we just sit there and let it brew. In fact, it makes us worse. The pastor also cited Psalms 32:3, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Anger unresolved= deadly depression, bitterness, and hatred towards others, which ironically ends up damaging ourselves.

I now want to compare these principles to those of compassion. I can think of no way how unselfish compassion can be sinful, but I am becoming convinced that compassion bottled up inside us does no good. For example, I often feel sorry for people who are sitting by themselves or who appear to be having a bad day. Even so, I find a thousand excuses not to do anything about it, my favorite one being that I am an introverted person. I tell myself, “Oh, I’m too shy to talk,” or “Someone else will do that,” or “I’ll never be able to help them in time,” or something else like that and thus completely lose the opportunity to help someone. And then there’s the slamming that comes from my gut after I’ve done it: “I should have helped him” or “That person really was alone.” Then the boundless imagination takes stage, forming every kind of situation that person might have been in that day, blaming myself for not showing kindness.

Well, guess what? I’m tired of the sentimentality simmering like a sickeningly sweet candle, I’m sick of the excuses, and what I wouldn’t give to smash the violin! Compassion without action is pointless. Obviously having a warm heart is better than having a rotten soul which could rival the Grinch’s, but it’s not all about us, is it? If no one can see our heart, then we might as well waste away.

Like anger, compassion does not need to be left unresolved. And no, I’m still not an extroverted individual bouncing around with a sugary smile, but while all of those excuses were rolling around inside my head, I forgot two important things. For one, I forgot that I was the new kid not too long ago. I forgot how nice it felt to walk in church and be noticed. I forgot how nice it was to move to a new town and how people moved out of their way to make me comfortable in my new home. I forgot how just one smile or laugh can feel so good if I’m having a hard time. Mostly, I forgot the most important thing. I forgot Philippians 4:13, which tells me, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I don’t have to be extroverted. I don’t have to “feel it.” I just got to do what I can to show people God’s love, and God will definitely give me the strength. He gives me so many opportunities already, both in areas I’m okay in like this writing platform and in other places where I’m just learning to walk, like talking to strangers. As I was thinking about all this today, I kinda got a funny mental picture in my head. I was imagining Jesus with an all-knowing smile, looking over the edge of heaven to see what I was doing. I imagined He was saying something like, “Look at all the things God has given you. What are you going to do with all of it?” I believe it was God-inspired because in the Luke 12:48, Jesus did say, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” We must use our resources wisely and compassionately. Indeed, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said that when we help others, we are helping Christ, “37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:37-40). Therefore, if we do not help others, we might as well slam the door in Jesus’ face, “45He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me’” (Matthew 25:45).

This week I challenge you and me to be think, love, and ACT Compassionately. Emotion is great, but “I’m not feeling it” just isn’t cutting it anymore. No excuse can stand against our mission, which is to follow Christ and show His love.

Have a great week! And let me know how you live up to the challenge!

No Coincidence

4 Oct

Life is so chaotic. It rarely teaches us anything by itself, and when it does, we’re often left with questions as to what it meant! Luckily, God is much clearer with His messages. I thought I would share something that happened this week…something I thought was far too strange to be a coincidence at first and then immediately knew it was God’s work.

Last Sunday I was walking in the neighborhood with a confidant, and for some reason we started talking about driving. The conversation drifted to how the animals and children of the neighborhood love to play in the streets, and when they see a car approaching, they do not get out of the way. In my case, they have actually run straight for the car! And these are not little kids; one person who did this was at least twelve, which I think is plenty old enough to know better. Anyway, “Sherlock” decided to develop a theory and plan of action: my confidant decided that next time he would drive toward the animals instead of trying to avoid them because he thought that was the only way to get them out of the road (by the way, I do not think he was going to employ this tactic against small children. I guess I should have asked…)

Whatever happened, he did not have the opportunity to test this theory on the kids (luckily for them).

The next day it was storming outside. If you live in Georgia, you know that it has been like living in Dublin, Ireland, for the past week! That morning was no different. As I was doing homework while looking out the window (a.k.a., becoming distracted from said homework by looking out the window), I suddenly remembered that this friend would be driving in the wet weather this morning on his way to college. Then, as soon as the thought hit, this crazily detailed vision of him swerving and wrecking appeared in my head. I’m usually a worrier, but I had never thought that particular thought. I remembered that my dad would also be traveling in the weather, so I prayed for them both.

Around five o’clock I went outside to walk. It was still misting. Well, “Sherlock” drove down the road in his car and tried to stop to talk to me, but there was someone else behind him. He drove on, and I continued walking. A few minutes later, he comes running down the hill, says hi, and tells me to walk with him for a moment. Then he starts the conversation with this interesting question, “So you remember how I told you my theory about driving towards the animals instead of avoiding them? Well, it doesn’t work. I hit a squirrel, literally a minute ago, and I want to go see if he’s still alive.” He went on to say that he was deeply sorry for hitting the squirrel, and how hitting an animal makes you feel both nauseous and giggly at the same time. Interesting, and true, observation.

As we approached, the squirrel did not rise back up. Upon further inspection, we learned that he was indeed dead. We both felt awful for the innocent creature, whose eyes were so peacefully closed and whose fur was missing in patches from the road rash. After staring at him for a moment, my friend said he felt bad to just leave him there, but he didn’t know of anything else to do. “And worst part,” he said, “is that someone actually saw me trying to hit the squirrel!” I laughed, remembering that there had been a car behind him as he had entered the neighborhood. I also noticed that the squirrel was literally in the middle of the road; there was no way he could have been hit by accident (if the driver *cough cough* had been staying in his lane!). We walked for a while, and my friend also told me that the morning class had been cancelled for the day because the professor “didn’t feel like it.” After walking for a little longer, he went to his house to eat take-out, provided he had the appetite after seeing his victim.

It was not until I was on the way home myself that I put all these events together and concluded that they were not coincidences. As I had feared, my confidant had swerved in the rain, but God had watched out for him. In fact, he had not even been driving in the early morning fog because of the cancelled class! While I felt very sorry for the poor squirrel, I suddenly was ecstatic that he had been the only casualty! I realized that in a moment’s time, the tables could have turned; the car could have collided with another car, or swerved off the road. It occurred to me that every second on earth is a matter of life or death. There really is no guaranteed tomorrow, which was definitely the lesson for the month in many ways (but that will have to be for a separate post). In the end, I praised God for shielding my friend. I felt extremely comforted to know that someone I cared for so dearly was being watched over by The One who has all the power in the world.

P.S. I asked my dad how his day of driving had been, and thankfully there had been no crazy squirrels or developing theories in action.

A Writer’s Parody of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”

28 Sep

When the radio became infected with the “Blank Space” earworm this past February, I realized it would make a good writing parody! Enjoy. 🙂 

7 Steps to Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

16 Jul


What do people claim to fear more than death? Every time? Public speaking. We’ve all had bad experiences with it. At my first “big” interview for the FFA officer team at my high school, I had one hand on my hip and one hand on the podium the whole interview. I stuttered through my responses, lost myself in the explanation, and lacked the skills to create a professional but enjoyable atmosphere. Throughout the rest of my freshman year, I found myself in more and more situations where public speaking was necessary whether it was in the classroom or through extracurricular responsibilities. I blushed when I was nervous, swayed like a birch-tree in a thunderstorm, and used my hands so much the judge’s review cards would flap in the breeze. Four years later, I find myself in love with speaking and excelling at it. So what happened?

Practice, patience, perseverance, sure. But more so, I had guidance and instruction. Public speaking isn’t something you’re just magically good at. Sure, some people have “a good voice” or “a way with words.” Without knowing what to do with those gifts, those people are just as lost as the rest of us.

These are some tips and tid-bits that I’ve found helpful throughout my public speaking career; this is by no means a complete list or a one-stop-shop to making you the next Martin Luther King, Jr., but it may be a good starting point if you aren’t sure where to begin on honing those fabulous talents you have tucked away behind your ear.

  1. Decide to have a conversation. We’ve all heard, at some point, to imagine the audience in their underwear, but that’s never really helped me. I mean, if everyone else is in their underwear, we’ve got a hot mess of an audience who are for sure not going to be listening to what you have to say. Now, that may seem like a good thing, but I can tell you from experience there is nothing better than an actively engaged audience. An engaged audience may nod along to what you say, murmur an “amen” or “preach it” or “yes, ma’am!” as you speak, laugh when you tell jokes, cry when you drop that fantastic story on them, clap at the conclusion of your speech. So how do you get that kind of audience? Decide to have a conversation. Just like you’re having a chat with your bestie, talk to the audience like you would talk to a group of friends–like you know each person individually. If you are nervous, they will be nervous for you. If you are cold, they will return your coldness. If you open yourself up to having a conversation with them (albeit, you’ll be doing most of the talking), they’ll respond with a conversation. Communication is a two-way street; in order for you to have an interactive audience, you have to invite them to the party. That way, when you mess up, it won’t be a big deal because it’s just a conversation with friends.
  2. Master that nonverbal communication. I cannot stress this enough. We all have our nervous ticks: rhythm master, reflex tester, swaying tree, rocking chair, the stanky leg where you do that awkward, twisty thing with your foot, practicing arithmetic on your hands, etc. . All of these things along with your poise and presentation make up what is called nonverbal communication. This is where all of your hand-motions, movements, and voice inflections play into your speech. Make a dramatic pause here. Get teary-eyed as you share a moving story. Curl your hand into a fist when you’re angry– all these things make up what you are communicating without words. All those nervous ticks that I mentioned before convey just that– nervousness, fear, worry. Master that nonverbal communication by executing purposeful movements, inflections, and pauses. Use your hands to illustrate an easily recognizable action or the size of something; lean forward if you say, “I’ll let you in on a little secret;” change the volume and pitch of your voice depending on which part of the speech you are at. All of these things communicate expertise and understanding of the topic at hand beyond the words that you are sharing. It’s okay to let the little actor inside of you out and put on a little show for your audience! Professional, yes. But also enjoyable. A great balance between those two things is the addition of positive nonverbal communication. And if you find that your nerves are getting to you, a cool trick you can also take advantage of is to bring a water bottle. When you feel that you’re becoming overwhelmed, lose your train of thought, or simply need to take a breath, take a sip of the water. It’s an understandable, purposed nonverbal communication that you needed a breather and some water, and no one can critique you for that! When you create a presentation such as a power point to go along with your speech, make it appealing and interesting to look at. If it’s a stock, plain-jane theme then you communicate disinterest in the topic or a rushed presentation. Remember, the way you present the information is just as important as what you say in the presentation. All of these things can make or break your speech, so pay attention to them. Mastering nonverbal communication is half the battle; if you can do that, the rest of public speaking will be a cinch.
  3. Make a move. This point builds off nonverbal communication. Don’t stay in the same place the whole time you’re speaking; work the room to your advantage. Not only will this help you to translate and remember where those pesky paragraph breaks are in real life but it also helps your audience recognize the speech’s progression. Starting and ending standing in the same place is a great way to give closure to your speech. Give points one, two, and three each at different places across the front of the room. That way when you hit your audience with each new topic sentence, it’ll be easier to remember because you changed places. By associating a motor function with an idea or a piece of the speech, you’ll be better grounded in your memorization and your audience can process the information by placement. It almost works like Sherlock’s mind-palace; each different idea gets a different room or spot on the stage. Movement also allows you to involve everyone– not just front and center folks. If everyone feels included, then everyone is that much more willing to be engaged, and remember– an actively engaged audience is our goal.
  4. Look ’em in the eyes. Remind them you’re not a robot staring at that one fly on the wall in the back. Again, it’s all about connecting with the audience. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is to work from side to side of the room. Mix it up; the more random your contact the better. But if you need a pattern, work in a figure eight through the room: left back, middle center, right front, right back, middle center, left front. If you look ’em in the eyes, you’re reminding them and yourself that these are real, normal people too and that you and they aren’t so different after all. They don’t feel like you’re standing on some untouchable pedestal, and you don’t feel like they’re all out to get you. More than likely everyone in the audience has had some experience– good, bad, or ugly– with public speaking, and really they’re rooting for you. But you won’t see all that silent encouragement if you don’t make eye contact, so do the thing!
  5. Establish mile-makers. We’ve all been there: stage fright with an iron wall in between us and that thing we would have sworn up and down the minute before we knew by heart. It works the same with playing an instrument. By establishing mile-markers, your autopilot not only has land marks to go by but also if you lose your place, you’ll have somewhere to either go back to or to jump forward to. The best mile-markers for me are usually those nice phrases you’re really proud of that just work or a big word that you just enjoying having in there. Just like land marks stick out to us on the road because they are different or easily spotted whilst in transit, mile-markers in your speech should be unique, easy to spot words, phrases, or sentences. That way, when you’re booking it through your speech because good lord there are a lot more people in the crowd than they said there would be, you have a well established road to follow even when your composure is running in a million different directions away from you.
  6. Harness the speech’s momentum. Get into it, ladies and gents. A lot of times this will stem off your style and voice. As your speech builds, allow yourself to go along with it. Don’t bust the mic, obviously, but as you approach the climax, get a little rowdy– get excited. Get loud. When you harness the momentum of the speech and use it to your advantage through your body language and presentation, it feels like you are approaching the climax of a good movie. Be passionate, be excited, be involved in what you’re saying and the audience will be too.
  7. Believe what you are saying. This one is pretty self explanatory. Be passionate about what you’re talking about, and those around you will be excited because of your passion. If you really want an engaged audience, be passionate, and they won’t be able to help themselves but to get swept up in it. Believe in yourself, believe in what you are saying, and they will too.