Public Speaking – What Do You Do When Your Mind Goes Blank?

(Quick note: I will continue my series about five animals that teach us to trust God next week.)

In public speaking classes, you are normally required to memorize your speech. While memorizing is fairly simple, the hardest part is staying memorized. Nerves often cause our minds to become muddled. What if you are standing on stage, and your mind goes completely blank? What do you do then?

My piano recital experiences have thoroughly acquainted me with the blank mind phenomenon. My mind went completely blank during all three of my high school piano recitals.  Here are five lessons I learned about what to do when you suddenly forget your speech.

 

  • A pause that feels huge to you is barely noticed by the audience.

When you are struggling to regain your momentum, seconds feel like glaciers. However, seconds feel like seconds to the audience. The audience members are not anxiously stamping their feet, demanding that you get back on track instantaneously. They are cheering you on. Everyone has experienced their mind going completely blank during inconvenient times, thus your audience can sympathize with you.

 

  • Humor can quickly lighten up an intense situation.

At one piano recital, I sat down on the piano bench, stared at the keys, and completely forgot how to start my song. I had been playing the song for months and had been memorized for weeks. I could even play it with my eyes closed. However, in the heat of the moment, my mind went blank. Rather than panic, I deflated the situation. As I walked back to my seat to retrieve my music, I said to the audience, “I promise you I had my piece memorized this morning!” Polite, quiet laughter followed my comment. Because I defused both my own tension and the tension in the room, the rest of my performance continued with no further mishaps. Rather than panic, choose to see the humor in your mistakes. Seeing the humor will allow you to move forward with fewer mishaps.

 

  • Stop speeding!

People tend to speak as fast as possible when nervous. However, you are not trying to get your speech over with. Remember to enjoy the experience! Speeding will cause you to lose your place and forget what you were planning to say next. Talking slower will give your brain time to keep up with your mouth. The audience would much rather listen to a slow, calm presenter than an anxious, fast talker.

 

  • You are not in a race to finish the speech.

I recently watched a TEDMED speech where the woman presenting paused after every single sentence. Not only did she pause after every sentence, she also spoke extremely slowly! While I thought her speech dragged a little, I did have time to catch and consider every single word she said. There is no need for a frantic pace. Silence is not evil. In fact, silence gives both speaker and audience members a second to reflect, which is priceless. One word of caution: if you pause, remember to stay engaged. Do not look down at the ground, stare into space, or bore a hole in the ceiling from the intensity of your gaze. If you pause, you need to show the audience that you are still present and thinking of what you are going to say next.

 

  • Your written speech is a guide, not a rigid dictator.

If you are simply unable to remember the next sentence, go off script. Many speakers struggle through their presentations because they are trying to recall the exact wording on their written speech. You know the message you are trying to convey. You know your facts. Just relax and tell us about your topic! Even if you have to end a point short, just move on to the next point that you can recall. There is no rule that you must say every word that is on your written speech. Since no one in the audience has a copy of your speech, they will never know that you forgot something if you just keep moving.

In conclusion, your momentary forgetfulness is not the end of the world, even though it may feel like a complete disaster to you. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and continue on. The audience is eager to hear what you have you to share!

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Brighter Days Ahead-Lesson 4 IEW Advanced U.S. History

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This was one of my favorite lessons. I was asked to write a historical fiction story based on the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony. The lesson provided a comprehensive outline and ideas for the main plot conflict, but for the most part I was left to my own research and imagination. I have read many historical fiction stories set in this time period, so this lesson was a real treat. The technique of personification and adverbial clauses were addressed and reviewed.

Audrey French

IEW Advanced US History

17 April 2017

Brighter Days Ahead

Seventeen year old Esther Allerton leaned over the pale body of her mother, scanning anxiously for any sign of improvement. The constantly rocking ship and the congested quarters had managed to make the conditions aboard the Mayflower nearly intolerable. People lay sick and dying all around the hold of the ship. Almost every family had a member who was ill. Esther glanced at her fourteen year old brother, Joseph, and her nine year old sister, Hannah.

“The sooner we are rid of this foul ship, the better.” Esther declared.

Joseph gazed at their sleeping mother, Ruth, “Is she doing any better?”

Esther shook her head despondently, “I fear not. Her fever has been raging for three days now. Nothing I do seems to help her.”

Joseph stood and strode to her side, “I wish I could join father on land to assist with the building of the first houses.”

Esther shook her head, “You heard father. It is far too dangerous. Besides, it wouldn’t do for you to catch your first glimpse of our new home before I do.”

Hannah crept up to her siblings and whispered hopefully, “Maybe moving mother to land will help her?”

“Perhaps,” Esther muttered, “Nothing could possibly be worse than this ship.”

The siblings were interrupted by a loud clomping on the steps descending into the ships hold. A group of ten weary men plodded down. One of them, Isaac Allerton, headed straight for Esther.

“Father!” Esther exclaimed, jumping up to embrace him.

Father wrapped Esther in warm hug. He peered down at his wife. “Any better today?”

Esther shook her head sadly, “I can’t bring her fever down.”

Father sighed, “I fear that she cannot bear this illness and the conditions on this boat any longer. The men and I finished the first home on land today. I will be moving all of you and mother into it tomorrow.”

“Hurray!” Esther, Joseph, and Hannah chorused.

Father gave a tired smile, “I’m sure you all will be overjoyed to be rid of this stuffy ship.” He glance down again at his wife, “And maybe the fresh air will help your mother.”

The next day dawned, dusky and dim. Fog rolled over the bay like a blanket. Esther hurried around gathering her family’s few belongings while ensuring her siblings were prepared for the short trip ahead. Isaac Allerton tenderly gathered his wife in his arms and quickly instructed his children to follow him down to the landing boat which they would take to shore.

As soon as they were settled, Esther peered out to land. She smiled slightly and fingered the delicate necklace her grandmother had given her right before she boarded the Mayflower. Finally, they were taking a step towards their original goal, building their lives in a new land!

Soon the boat bumped into the shore and the weary travelers disembarked. Isaac rushed his wife to one of the crudely constructed lodges, leaving Esther, Joseph, and Hannah to deal with the meager luggage the family brought. Along with ten other people from the landing boat, they stumbled into the hastily built log cabin. Isaac tenderly laid his wife on a blanket on the ground.

Isaac cast a weary smile at Esther, Joseph, and Hannah. “Why don’t you all walk around a bit? I can take care of mother for a little while. Do not wander out of sight of the guards. There are Indians in these parts, and we are quite concerned about them attacking us.”

Esther, Joseph, and Hannah ran outside. They soon found themselves standing in a broad meadow. However, the dead grass lay on the ground and the tall trees stood bare and ominous, reaching their scraggly arms high to the sky. The wind created an ominous rustling as it whipped through the barren trees.

“I’m sure this place is quite beautiful in the spring.” Esther mused.

“I’m sure it is,” Joseph responded, kicking a rock, “I wonder if mother will live till then.”

Esther bit her lip, “We must be strong and not give up hope, Joseph.”

Esther was interrupted when Jonathan Mullins trotted up to the group, “Esther! I haven’t seen you in weeks!”

Esther smiled up at Jonathan. As usual, his curly brown hair ran every which way, but his blue eyes still held their steady, organized charm. Jonathan had asked Isaac permission to wed Esther at the nearest opportunity, and Isaac had given his whole hearted approval. Now, they only had to wait for an appropriate time.

Esther laughed, “I spoke briefly with you a few days ago! You have been so busy on the building projects that we have not had much time to talk.”

Jonathan smiled and brushed a strand of hair out of Esther’s face, “Soon we will have much more time to talk.”

“Once we make it through this winter.” Esther added.

Jonathan sighed, “Yes”.

The next few days passed by slowly. Due to the extreme shortage of able bodied men, Joseph was finally permitted to join Jonathan and Isaac to assist with building more homes. Esther spent her days tending her mother and attempting to keep the energetic Hannah out of trouble. Mother gradually grew sicker and sicker. The large cabin was full of ailing people. Every day at least one person passed away, often times many more. One day, Esther reached up to finger her precious necklace. She reached to the place where it would normally lay, but found nothing. She quickly scanned the ground around her.

“I must have lost it on one of my walks around the clearing.” Esther groaned, “But I can’t leave mother to go search for it now.”

Just then, Esther heard a shrill, mighty scream from outside. She commanded Hannah to stay with mother and quickly ran outside. She found Jonathan and Joseph and a few other men standing by one of the new homes that was being constructed. They were desperately lifting a log, and as Esther neared them, she realized that they were lifting a log off the body of her father!

“What happened?” Esther gasped.

Joseph whispered shakily, “Father was on top of the wall pulling one of the logs up. Suddenly, he simply passed out and as he fell the log fell on top of him.”

As soon as the log was lifted off, Jonathan knelt by the body.

“Is he alive?” Esther half wailed.

Jonathan and a few of the men knelt down and felt Isaac’s body. Slowly they all stood up.

“Esther, Joseph,” Jonathan slowly began, “Your father is no longer alive.”

Esther suppressed a scream. Joseph gave a wide eyed look of horror.

“I’m so sorry,” Jonathan whispered.

Esther did not have time to put any further thought into the matter. Suddenly Hannah raced up to her and tugged on her skirt, “Esther! Esther! Mother is not breathing!”

Esther picked up her skirt and rushed into the long house. Kneeling beside her mother, she could immediately see that life had departed. The pain gone, her mother appeared more peaceful and serene than she had in weeks.

Esther began to sob inexorably. Joseph slipped in and knelt down beside her.

“No! Not mother too!”

Esther nodded shakily.

Jonathan strode in and quickly surveyed the situation. He slowly put an arm around Esther.

“Your father was already sickened with the fever; he just didn’t want to admit it since your mother was so ill.”

With that, Jonathan wrapped Ruth’s body in a blanket and carried it out of the house.  Esther, Jonathan, and Hannah numbly followed behind him.

“We must bury your mother and father now while we still have a break in the snowfall.”

Numbly, the three siblings followed Jonathan and several other men carrying Isaac’s body to the field that Esther had first walked in when they arrived. The men dug two graves right next to each other. They slowly laid the two bodies in the ground, and Elder Brewster led a short funeral service. With that, the two bodies were quickly covered.

Jonathan and the siblings stood by the graves for a few, still minutes. Finally Jonathan found the courage to speak.

“I, too, am an orphan. My parents died when I was thirteen years old. The grief is horrible, but eventually you learn to continue on with your life.”

Esther choked out through her sobs, “How can we learn to live again after the death of our dear parents! We are orphans in a strange, despicable land.”

Jonathan wrapped her in a warm hug. “Everything will work out, I promise. Those who persevere through life’s storms eventually find calmer seas.”

A little over three months later, the days began to grow longer and warmer. The harsh snow subsided, and Jonathan and Esther had a short ceremony to be married. The grief from the deaths of father and mother still weighed heavily on the siblings’ hearts, but with the changing of season dawned fresh glimmers of hope. Jonathan and Joseph worked ambitiously to build a new little home where they could all live together as one happy family.  Esther and Hannah, both toughening to the rough work of the new world, labored daily tending the gardens and crops. Finally,  they reaped the benefits of their labor when the little home was ready to move into and green shoots began to appear in the fields.

“Mother and Father would have been very proud of this home.” Esther sighed with a tinge of sadness in her voice.

Jonathan wrapped his wife in a hug, “They certainly would have. They also would have been proud of how well you, Joseph, and Hannah have coped over the last few months. You all have truly grown years older since we first arrived.”

Jonathan reached down deep into his pocket and pulled a sparkling object out. He handed it to Esther.

“Would you happen to recognize this? I found it the other day when I was preparing the nearby meadow to grow corn.”

Esther gasped in amazement, “It’s the necklace my grandmother gave to me! I thought it was gone forever!”

Jonathan smiled, “I’m glad that I recover it for you.”

Esther slipped the treasure into her pocket, later to be placed in a safe spot in their new home.

Esther gathered Joseph and Hannah into a hug, “We have learned to be persistent and weather the storms.”

Joseph smiled, “Mother and Father would be overjoyed to know that we are all still together as a family.”

Hannah grabbed Jonathan’s leg, “I miss Mother and Father so very much, but you and Esther take excellent care of us.”

Jonathan laughed and pulled Hannah into his arms, “I will never take the place of your father, but I do love you and your family dearly.”

Esther smiled, “This adventure in this new world has by no means been easy, but I firmly believe that brighter days are ahead.”

 

 

 

Five Animals That Teach Us to Trust God 3) Birds

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“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:25-26

God cares deeply about you, from the major decisions to the little details of your life.  Whether it’s your food for today or who you are going to marry in the future, God has already gone ahead and lighted your path. Like any loving parent, God takes pleasure in caring for His children! God is not lacking in attention to detail or provision for all our needs. His abundance of supply and time even allows Him to provide bountifully for all the birds! Have you ever taken notice of just how many birds there are? If God can care for all of them, surely He has even the little details of our lives under control.

Five Animals That Teach Us to Trust God 2) Chicks

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“He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”  Psalms 91:4

God wants us to find refuge in him just like baby birds seek refuge under their mother’s wing. A baby bird nestles under its mother for protection and comfort. The place of safety in our crazy world is close to Jesus’ heart. When He was riding into Jerusalem during his earthly ministry, Jesus mourned over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Jesus longs to draw us close; we just have to cooperate! When we draw close to God, He covers and protects us. While we should use common sense and avoid dangerous situations, we simply do not have the wisdom or foresight to completely keep ourselves from harm. As a loving father, God has his eye on every potential danger to us and strives to protect us.

Rainbow Crow’s Sacrifice-Lesson 3 IEW Advanced U.S. History

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The first two lessons were straightforward essays. This lesson required a little more imagination. The lesson required the writer to rewrite a Native American folk tale titled “Rainbow Crow”. The teaching section of the lesson covered the vital parts to a story, alliteration, similes, metaphors, and five senses adjectives.

Audrey French

IEW Advanced US History

11 April 2017

Rainbow Crow’s Sacrifice

Once upon a time, there was a lively forest filled with friendly animals. The animals lived in harmony together in their lustrous home. The air was constantly abuzz with the happy chattering of squirrels and the melodious strains of birds. The animals spent their days searching for food, which was quite bountiful in their undisturbed forest, and playing with one another.   When winter came, pristine snowflakes began to fall from the sky. The animals were delighted and thoroughly enjoyed their new toy.

The snow continued to fall furiously, blanketing the ground in a crisp, crunchy cover. The poor animals, freezing and thoroughly miserable, wanted more than anything for the snow to stop.  Only the Great Spirit, Kijamub Ka’ong, could make the snow stop and relieve the animals from their calamitous situation. Gray Feather the owl, both wise and innovative, led the council where they determined who would petition the Great Spirit.

“We need someone to fly like the wind,” Gray Feather hooted.

“I could do it!” Goober, the gliding squirrel, squeaked.

“You can’t even fly; all that you can do is glide!” Puffy the bunny quickly contested.

“That is not all,” Gray Feather continued, “we also need someone who can please Kijamub Ka’ong, so he will meet our request.”

“I could show him the juggling act I’ve been working on!” Chippy the chipmunk shrieked excitedly, “I’m quite good!”

Gray Feather shook his head gravely, “No, we need something more impressive.”

“I could go,” Rainbow Crow strutted to the front.

“Why of course!” Goober cried, “There is no one more colorful and graceful than Rainbow Crow!”

“And no one can sing more beautifully than she in the whole forest!” Chippy exclaimed.

“If anyone can convince Kijamub Ka’ong to stop the snow, Rainbow Crow can,” Puffy declared confidently.

Gray Feather quickly agreed and emboldened Rainbow Crow for the arduous journey into the heavens with a few quick words.

“You are our prized representative, the jewel of this whole forest. May the winds of the sky speed you in your journey.”

With that, Rainbow Crow ascended into the sky.  She flew north for hundreds and thousands of miles. The wind blew all around her, causing a strong whistling sound as the breeze cascaded over her wings. Eventually, she flew up and up and up until she had flown past the sun! Soon, she stood before the Great Spirit, Kijamub Ka’ong. Rainbow crow opened her beak and stunningly beautiful strains of music came forth. Kijamub Ka’ong listened delightedly to the enchanting song.

“Rainbow Crow, what can I do for you?” inquired Kijamub Ka’ong.

Rainbow crow responded, “We who live in the forest beyond the mountains are very cold and were hoping that you could turn back the snow.”

Kijamub stroked his beard, “I cannot turn back the snow, but I can give you a gift to fight off the cold.”

With that, he plunged his stick straight into the sun and placed the now blazing stick into Rainbow Crow’s beak.

“Take this back to the forest. It is called ‘fire’. It will keep you and your friends warm through the coldest months.”

Rainbow Crow rapidly descended with the precious fire stick. The soot and the smoke from the stick quickly turned her gorgeous rainbow feathers black and transformed her supreme singing voice into a raspy croak. Eventually, Rainbow Crow arrived back home with the fire stick and the cold forest animals quickly showed their appreciation and gathered around the blazing fire. Rainbow Crow’s sacrifice of both her beauty and voice saved her friends and forever changed the world with fire.

Five Animals That Teach Us to Trust God 1) Sheep

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Sometimes, resting in God can feel impossible. Being stressed is a sign of responsibility. Because stress is a normal result of duty, finding peace in our everyday lives becomes a rare occurrence. Fortunately, God knew that convincing us to cast our cares on Him would be difficult, so he provided powerful role models for us in the Bible. No, I’m not talking about humans; I’m talking about furry four legged creatures and winged fliers. Over the next five weeks, I will be sharing five animals that God uses to teach us about resting in His peace:

First up: Sheep

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

David, Isaiah, and Jesus all illustrate our relationship with God like that of a shepherd with his sheep. In Psalm 23, David shows God lovingly leading, protecting, and providing for those under His care. As long as the sheep stay behind the shepherd, they are safe and abundantly provided for. When we follow the shepherd, we automatically find ourselves on the path to fulfilling our God given destiny.

Isaiah uses the sheep analogy in the verse above, displaying that God tenderly notices the specific needs of the members of His flock and carries those who are too weak to walk on their own.  Jesus takes it a step further in Luke 15:1-7, showing that the Good Shepherd will search for just one lost sheep that strays from the flock.  Just like the sheep, God wants a relationship with us where we allow Him to carry, lead, provide, and protect us.

Contentment for Christmas

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Christmas has become retail’s favorite holiday. Celebrations, decorations, and Christmas carols accompany mass spending, often to the point of debt. According to a Forbes article published in 2016, “Parents are predicted to spend $495 per child this year, which is nearly $100 more than they spent last year.”1

With Christmas spending rising year by year, we have drifted far from simple Christmases. Despite out of control spending habits today, America was built on the foundation of simplicity.

In the book Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts what she and her sister, Mary, each received for Christmas one year: a tin cup, a candy cane, a heart shaped cake, and a penny. This would be a very disappointing Christmas morning in today’s world, but both Mary and Laura were left speechless with joy. Previously, they had been sharing a tin cup, so having their very own was a real treat. I own at least four reusable water bottles and innumerable coffee mugs, yet I have never thought twice about how privileged I am.

Simple Christmas gifts remained the norm for decades to come. In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus, the father, purchases an air rifle for each of his children, named Scout and Jem. That was it. Jem and Scout were, like Mary and Laura, positively overjoyed. Thus, the 1930’s proved to be no different from the 1800’s.

The old fashioned gift giving philosophy still lives on in unique individuals today. For instance, my Grandma French is always careful to fulfill a need with both her presents and her presence. Several years ago my sisters and I were spending the day at my grandparents’ home. I was using one of grandma’s pens and commented how much I liked it. Sure enough, for Christmas I received an identical pen. The fact that she remembered that miniscule fact makes me feel treasured, even though the gift was not of a high financial value.

People used to be purposeful with their gifts. Gifts were meant to fulfill a practical function. Now, we aim for quantity instead of quality, hoping that the combined glory of the gifts will make the receiver happy.

However, the more we receive, the less happy we seem to become.

Yes, gifts are a great avenue to show our love and appreciation for one another, but perhaps we have caved to obligation. If we do not purchase extravagant gifts, then we feel as though we have failed in proving our love. History shows that love certainly is not proved just through gifts. Laura, Mary, Jem, and Scout, as well as many others all felt their family’s love through the time spent together, whether at work or play.

In some instances, material gifts are more of a burden than a blessing. Perhaps a more meaningful gift would be writing someone a letter of encouragement to let them know how much they mean to you. Or maybe you could arrange a time to go to lunch or spend time together. Love is shown in our daily actions, not in a once a year gift spree.

Our culture of extravagant gift giving has also fostered an attitude of entitlement. If we do not receive what we asked for, if we are not wowed by the gifts under the tree, we feel short changed somehow. The commercials we see on television and the ads in stores strive to convince us that our lives our incomplete without the latest products and gizmos. If that was not enough, our social media feeds show families enjoying the perfect gifts. That leads us to naturally believe that we deserve the same treatment. In reality, any gift we receive is a blessing beyond belief.

1 Timothy 6:8 says, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Anything that our family or friends give us beyond food, clothing, and shelter is a bonus, not something we are deserving of or entitled to. Perhaps the best gift Christmas can give is a change of perspective, an attitude of gratefulness. We can use this season to realize that many do not receive any gifts for Christmas, thus developing appreciation for the abundance we have. Our relationship with God and attitude of gratitude are the best assets in life. As 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

We know that the greatest gift of Christmas is Jesus Himself. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Whether we have a little or a lot, we can be satisfied because the Creator of the Universe has given His Presence to constantly abide with us. Christmas is when we received God’s presence ever abiding with us. Outshining any material possession, we have a permanent present: God’s peace and forgiveness.  And that is a solid reason to be content.