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.

Writing Prompt #1

15 Jul


It’s summer time and you have spare time, so let’s do some writing, how ’bout it!?

– + – + –

Caffeine. Inspiration. Prompt. Let’s go. Here is today’s writing prompt challenge:

What you’ll need–

– 1 genuine sharpie marker (or equally awesome permanent marker)

– set of wheels

– a lil’ bit o’ cashola (I’d say about five bucks will suffice)

– the goods of writin’ (y’know, the pens, the paper, the laptop)

– one willing soul to assist you on your journey

How to Do the Thing–

1. Get in your car. Or on your bike. Or just walk. Walking is good too.

2. Drive to the nearest curb store, stylishly jamming out to whatever you like. If you are not in a car, use whatever portable music device you have and enjoy some good tunes. If you have no such device, sing at the top of your lungs. It’s all part of the process.

3. Purchase 2 bottles of sweet, Dixie campaign (that’s coca-cola, for you non-Southerners) at random. Note: these bottles must have names on them (e.g. John, Sally, Marsha, etc.) in order for the prompt to work. Keep this in mind during selection and purchasing procedures.

4. Using your sharpie, write the number 1 on top of one of the bottles and number 2 on top of the other bottle.

5. Return home in the same fashion as you left, stylishly jamming.

6. Allow your friend to, without seeing the names, choose which of the bottles is to be the antagonist and which of the bottles is to be the protagonist.

For example,

You: *expertly spins cokes around so that friend can only see the bottle caps* Pick 1 or 2. 

le Friend: *ponders choices while stroking an imaginary (or real) chinbeard* 2.

You: *malicious cackling* JONATHAN, YE SHALL BE OUR VILLAIN! *brandishes coke bottle gently as to not upset the carbon dioxide* 

le Friend: *eyebrow arch of Spock* And that makes number 1?

You: *brandishes second coke bottle (gently) like a sword* MAXWELL, YE SHALL BE OUR HERO!

le Friend: *nervous laughter* You are insane.

You: *indignant Sicilian accent* Inconceivable!

le Friend: *exhausted yet amused Spanish accent* You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

7. Enjoy a coke with your friend.

8. While you are a-buzz with caffeine, use the two names and their predetermined destinies to write a 100 word flash fiction that begins with…

“I don’t share things.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”

Post your completed prompts in the comments as well as which song you jammed out to on the way to purchase the cokes!

Life is Like Disney’s Mary Poppins Movie…A Few Philosophical and Theological Notes I Thought I’d Share

9 Jul

All of this came to me this morning while thinking about life and God’s will for the future. Some of it seems a bit self-evident now, but it did help me, so I thought I’d share…

Life is like Disney’s Mary Poppins movie: we sing and dance, until an unexpected storm hits and we disperse.  If you’re like me, you like to sing and dance, particularly with a certain group of people. Also as in Mary Poppins, this group of people can be friends you have just met, or it could be family or close friends that you have known all of your life. Either way, we usually don’t like it when the storm comes and we must part ways. Like Michael and Jane, we wail when playtime is over. But as Mary says, we stay “until the wind changes.”

The problem is we don’t know when the winds will change, or indeed if they will in that season. Consequently, we cause ourselves too much worry. Being hit by a few storms myself, I have become a meteorologist with severe OCD, testing the winds too long, and constantly watching the tide. So many different people have come and gone as soon as I have had the opportunity to know them well. Why should I let myself be hit with another storm? Why not stay inside and watch someone else’s heart break while I’m comfortable, dry, and happy as a clam? Well, that’s not how life works. I’m not happy as a clam by myself. Despite the danger, I still want to meet new friends. And as Sarah told me the other day, what would our lives be without adventure?

Another problem is that I am not a very good meteorologist. Have you ever tried to guess what God’s will is before you actually knew it? Keith Green’s song “Trials Turned to Gold” says, “The view from here is nothing near to what it is for You. I tried to see Your plan for me, but I only acted like I knew. Oh Lord, forgive the times I tried to read Your mind, cause You said if I’d be still, then I would hear Your voice.” Sometimes I think I can guess God’ will, so I try to look into the future to see where I’ll be. Sometimes thinking about the future can save us some headaches down the road. After all, we would never accomplish too much of anything if we didn’t plan it first and then act on it. The life of King Solomon is a firm reminder of the importance of wisdom, and I firmly believe that considering the future is a trait of it. But here is where I think the problem lies: considering the future is important. Worrying about it is not. Considering the future is a healthy habit of life; worrying about the future is a good way to destroy it.

A lot of times I worry about things that never happen. Something happens once, like a friend betraying me, and I suddenly extrapolate the evidence to conclude that every friend will betray me. Overconfident in my skills as a meteorologist, I predict the weather based on one or two experiences and then decide to stay inside.

But wait! WAIT!!!! There is a better way to live! When I was having troubles last summer, my friend Moriah admitted that she did not have too much advice to give on that particular subject. She did tell me this, however, and if I would remember it I could be saved from so much worry and hardship. It all boils down to this: “follow God, and you will have no regrets.” As Keith Green put it, “Just keep doing your best, pray that it’s blessed. Jesus will take care of the rest.” It’s so simple that it could almost could be a self-evident truth, and perhaps it is for you, but it wasn’t for me. I did not see this simple truth for years and probably let a lot of opportunities slip by because I did not have this security in my life. Matthew 6:31-34 tells us, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-34). The Bible says it all.

The wind may not change for some time. And then again, it may be changing as you are reading this page. But the bottom line is that we cannot spend time worrying about it. It truly is better to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” trusting that God does know the plan for us and that He will equip us with whatever we need to brave the storm. Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul. Everything else will work out. 

Do not worry about the storm. Sometimes we waste time worrying about things that were never God’s plan to begin with. We are only human, and the Bible tells us that we do not even know what a day may bring. How much less do we know what God’s plan is exactly? Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for everything, so go ahead and sing and dance, doing everything in the Lord. Thank Him for every sunny day, and let Him be your “spoonful of sugar” when a storm does come. Live for Him so that you will have no regrets when a storm does hit. Love Him so that you can run home merrily, skipping in the rain puddles and content with the joy you have in serving the Lord.

Helllooooooooo out there!

9 Jul

Sorry (again) about the long blog vacation. Only it really wasn’t a vacation at all. It was life being crazy, and then Brooke lost her password and wordpress was “bound and determined,” as we say in the South, not to let her in. Anyway, we’re back now and even the wordpress technology has changed, so bear with us!

shaking hands with new characters

13 Apr

or: Getting Punched in the Metaphysical Face By Unanticipated Angst (And Why the Second Title Is Better)

So, I can’t claim to have written entire books like Brooke and Sarah, nor can I say that ‘I’m the best at what I do, and what I do’ is write. (I will draw something quick’n’scribbly for whoever gets that reference). I can say that I can write, and that the characters are easy.

I’m sorry, I’m currently laughing myself off my brain stem. That’s a huge pile of ‘no, say truthful things now’. Characters are weird. And crazy. They are so crazy. Like, you have this second (or whatever) person existing in your head and you don’t even really know who they are.

So you introduce yourself, shake his/her/whatever hand/paw/talon/whatever; that is to say, you kinda figure out how you think your character works. And then you, or I, start writing.

Now, I haven’t written seriously in far, far too long, but my most recent bout was roleplaying. Sarah can attest to this experience, as she was participating as well. Our characters were interacting. My character was supposed to be bubbly, generally happy, and immediately helpful to the situation.

That did not happen.

At all.

Here’s what happened:


That is my character, as you may have guessed. Flinz (my character) did not actually throw open doors and yell about “unresolved angst-ger,” but the effect was the same, and she left angry and Sarah’s character in something of a pickle.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s okay if your characters start one way and end up totally different. They will still be interesting, helpful to the story (probably, that’s up to you), and probably a reflection of some part of your thoughts. Sit down and write them in various situations, be it roleplaying or writing your book or simply silly little scenes that will never do anything besides sit on your harddrive and take up space. Shake their hands, and be prepared for a punch in the face and a reevaluation of that person and the situation.