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Posts Tagged ‘Speaking’

I’ve been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Creativity and a general intelligence have led me to excel in writing and music and speaking and business and oh so much more. I’ve always felt a little guilty for those gifts because I can’t possibly put them all to use at the same time. I feel the pressure every day to pour myself out and, even when I do, I still have a talent or two that didn’t get used. By not using my gifts I assumed I was putting them on the shelf to accumulate dust or being the man who received one talent and buried it (see Matthew 25:14-30) instead of doing something useful that would earn his master interest. But I’m wondering now if I’ve been looking at things upside-down.

For the last fifteen months music, in the form of worship leading, has taken precedence over writing (as evidenced by the postponed release of Rise of the Dark Sprite). Five weeks ago, I set down the guitar. I’ve set down a lot of things lately–but more on that another time.

It was a hard decision, perhaps one of the hardest of my life. Worship leading fulfilled so many parts of me, satisfying deep needs to minister to others and to celebrate the goodness of God. I miss it profoundly. In the five weeks since I said goodbye to my church I haven’t touched my guitar, either out of a deep sadness or a perpetual busyness. Probably a combination of the two. And, yes, I have been feeling a little guilty for not sharing my gifts as a musician and worship leader with a church who needs it.

But then I got to thinking…

What if my talents are like a deck-building game? Bear with me here. We’re nerds in this family. We save the world from super-villains over the holidays; hit every premiere weekend for Marvel movies; own the extended version of anything involving Middle Earth; and planned our vacation around seeing the new Star Wars move in IMAX. So it should come as no surprise to you that we delved right into a deck-building game based on The Fellowship of the Ring. The purpose of the game is to buy cards, worth abilities and victory points, that then go into your deck. Each round you deal yourself five cards, use them, and put them away to be re-dealt later. One round I’ll be wielding Legolas Greenleaf’s bow like a young Katniss Everdeen and the next I’ll have moved into defensive position with Boromir’s shield. I get five, usually awesome, cards per turn and it is up to me to put them to good use.

Now, back to my point. Perhaps my life is like a deck of cards. Each year I add a few new weapons to my arsenal (maybe a new passion for the banjo–that would be cool), and deal myself out a hand of talents. In 2015, the focus was worship leading and a new job. In 2016, I hope my focus will be writing and healing (surprise, surprise, when you have Lyme’s disease apparently you can’t work 80 hours a week). It’s not that I’m letting my God-given talent for song-writing and worship leading go to waste this year. It’s that He has handed me different cards. If I put them to waste, shame on me. But if I spend 2016 playing a great game with Legolas’ bow and choose not to pine for Boromir’s shield, then I think I will have done well.

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There is nothing like it. Nervously preparing and walking into a room of forty second-graders not sure whether they will roll their eyes at you or be in awe of your presence. As I entered the classroom this morning to hold a writer’s workshop, I was met with whispers from the kids “Is that the author?” “She’s a nice one.” “That is the author!” That did a lot for my confidence. I was prepared, on time, even early. My demonstrations were set and my outfit did not require attention. My outline was etched into my brain. I was ready.

As I spoke I lost all track of time in the fun of what I was doing. I could measure whether or not I should keep going by the teacher’s face and signals so I did not worry. I just spoke and answered questions and interacted with the kids. It was amazing!

Of course, after its over, you go back through in your mind and say, “I could have done this differently or that better.” Today, however, I had no opportunity to wonder whether or not I had done well. Twenty-five kids in a line for my autograph was enough to tell me that I had succeeded. I had inspired. I love hearing them come up to me and say that they are working on a book. I love listening to them ask intelligent questions, “What was your inspiration?” “How many characters should be in a book?” “How old were you when you started writing?” I loved it when one girl came up to me with a bead in her hand and said, “This is to inspire you,” because I had told her I take my inspirations from the everyday things around me. Wow. I love speaking! I went to inspire them and they inspired me. That’s pretty cool.

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I was never considered to be the shy kid, but believe me, though I may have seemed outgoing I preferred to hide in my room playing with imaginary creatures. Growing up with siblings who were much older, parents who worked full-time, and few kids to hang out with, I learned to love my imaginary friends. Whole worlds came out of those stories, with each new one building new characters, relationships, adventures. You see many of those creatures and people in Issym. You will see more through my entire writing career. They were, and are, my friends.

Sunday night I was at a friend’s (an actual, not imaginary person) church speaking to the youth group. I was nervous the whole way down and while I was there. I had not had enough prep-time; I did not know what I was getting myself into; I had not run the speech by my mom… there scores of reasons for fear. But, through God’s grace, I looked it in the eye and faced it. As I looked in my peers’ faces I saw that some of them were really listening and the adults nodding along. However, some of the teens had completely tuned me and the message out. More reasons to fear came: maybe I wasn’t dressed right; maybe I was too formal or too friendly; maybe I was not down-to-earth enough. But again, I kept going. I kept my voice level, stuck to the message I knew that God had given me and I persevered! Some people got it; others did not. That does mean that I failed. And if you try something and it does not go perfectly, realize that you did not fail. One person touched; one seed planted–reasons for celebration!

I was constantly in front of my church, for music, for drama, working with kids, giving presentations. But every time, my voice trembled, my hands shook and my heart was in my throat. Everybody gets nerves. Now, with my speaking career firmly established, I can officially say I am still afraid of public speaking.

Fear is a sad part of life. The thing is, that though I am afraid of speaking, I love it. It captures my whole attention, which is a difficult thing to do because my brain focuses on ten different things at once. It gets my passions out where they can do some good. Speaking is wonderful, despite the fear.

Fear can be useful. It tells you not to go down the dark ally or to drink that dirty water. But most of the time fear stands in our way. Do not let it stand in yours.

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I had the awesome opportunity Tuesday to get away from studying for today’s sociology final to teaching two communications classes at Penobscot Christian School in Bangor, Maine. After teaching these two classes to the 7th and 8th graders, I was asked to speak to a class of 5th and 6th graders. I met some really awesome students at the school and got to talk about creative writing and about letting God use you now.

The principle then invited me to come back the next day (today) and speak at chapel. This was really exciting to me because my passion is to show young people that God is ready to do miraculous (seemingly impossible–like in Numbers 22 where God lets a donkey talk) things now. I tried to teach the students that in part yesterday, but it was difficult to explain in the short amount of time. Today, I really enjoyed getting to speak to students from kindergarten through eighth grade because this message is not just for teens, it is for adults and for toddlers: God is ready to move; He wants to use you.

I was amazed today, after much prayer, that my nerves seemed to completely disappear as I spoke. I was focused on God, on His word and on His message. That was what mattered. The rest seemed to fade away. I thought speaking would never get easier. Tomorrow it might be difficult again, but today I would rather do nothing than speak. My soul was content; the world was forgotten. I had a purpose; it was clear and the moment was beautiful.

A few weeks ago as I worked on my ‘Christian Experience Essay’ for my college application (to Columbia International University, where I intend to go next year to major in Business and Bible), I wrote that God had always made me passionate about helping people understand. That was the first time I realized it and I am so glad I did! That is why I love writing and that is why I love speaking (a recent developement), because I can help people understand. You may not be passionate about that, but whatever you are passionate about, GO FOR IT!

Last week I was not a speaker. This week I spoke six times to people of all ages. When God moves, He moves fully. If you give your life to Him, you will be amazed with how you will go from breathing to living. God wants to give you life, not just oxygen. I finally get that.

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This week I started the speaking that I will be doing in schools, youth groups and churches. On Tuesday I will teach a communications class. Today my sales team and I went to Calvary Chapel to give a short intro to my book, company and mission. It was a really awesome opportunity that led to some very important contacts. I also set up a time to go back and speak to the youth group as a whole. I am really excited to start speaking because I want to use my writing and company to affect the world of literature, yes, but also to inspire people (especially teenagers) to let God do great things through them. I am passionate about helping people understand that the impossible is not only possible, but supposed to be–and that it can be done through them!

I would be lying to say that I was not nervous about speaking (even for the short period of time). In fact, the reason I did not sleep last night was probably because of the adrenaline I had rushing through my system. I have frequently spoken in front of churches before, so why were the nerves racing through me? The idea that something gets easier over time is only slightly true, if at all. I may get better at writing, but it sure does not get easier! With every new approach I try to use there are failures and grand successes. Every time I get confident in one area, I try to grow in another or expect more of myself. So while I may get better at something, it certainly does not seem to get any easier! (Sports players or musicians you know this to be true. When you nail one shot or note you learn another.)

Writing Issym was hard, but I had no expectations for it. If it came out poorly I could chalk it up to inexperience. But when writing the sequel, Asandra, I expected so much more of myself. I believed I should be naturally better at it and also had higher expectations. This kept the writing process bunged up for way too long. I finally had to accept that it was okay to just write it and refine it later. Public speaking is much the same way. I love it like I love writing. I am just as nervous about them both (kind of funny that the two things that scare me to death are my chosen careers!). I used to speak poorly and hope to speak well. Now I speak well and hope to speak eloquently.

Everything of importance will cause you to be nervous, because you know just how important it is. So of course I am nervous about speaking and writing! I am so excited to inspire my fellow teens and the world to stand up in God. Because God wants to change the world; He has the power to; and He wants to use you, Reader.

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