Trillia: I don’t speak on something I haven’t experienced or researched well. It’s that simple. For example, I won’t speak about raising teenagers because my children are young, but I wouldn’t mind being on a panel with older women who could speak to that topic.
Paula: I ask what the purpose of their event is and if there’s a topic they want me to cover. Then I open my Speaking Engagements folder on my computer to see if there’s anything I’ve already written or taught that I can repurpose. No need to reinvent the wheel!
The Role of Prayer
Trillia: I ask the Lord to fill me with His Spirit and give me wisdom as I read His Word—I don’t want to make things up when I speak. I’d like to truthfully speak from His Word. I ask the Lord to help me be self-forgetful so I can serve well without thinking much about myself. I ask that those who hear have ears to hear what He might have for them, and if there’s anything I say that wouldn’t be helpful, that those words would be tossed from their minds.
Paula: It’s impossible to pray enough! The power of prayer is phenomenal. When I recently spoke in Brazil, there were literally thousands of people praying around the world. I’m convinced the fruit that continues to come out of that week is a direct result. I’d recommend setting up a prayer team. I email mine before and after an event to be sure I have prayer covering.
Trillia: Get someone to listen to you who would be willing to tell you hard things. I have a friend and colleague who regularly critiques my talks. It has been the most helpful thing I’ve done in a long time. He’s a trusted scholar, which definitely helps, but he’s also not afraid to tell me the truth. Finally, he not only wants me to do well; he wants those who hear me to be served. It’s a blessing!
Paula: Consider every opportunity to speak as vital practice and preparation. No opportunity is too small: making an announcement, emceeing a wedding reception, or hosting a small group. See if it can be recorded. Then, when you’re done, ask other great communicators to critique you. It’s scary, but invaluable.
The Three Best Tips We’ve Received
1. Critique yourself.
Even as painful as it is, listen to your talks or watch the videos so you can see and hear what you are saying/doing.
2. Be organized.
Have a clear goal for each message. I wrote my messages out word for word at first, but now after a few years, I can do an outline on some talks.
3. Be yourself.
You can’t be anyone else! Don’t try to mimic someone; be you. Don’t try to be an entertainer. If you’re a teacher—teach.
1. Channel your nervousness.
I will never forget my college speech professor telling our class that everyone gets nervous right before they speak. The key is to channel that nervousness into . . . energy!
2. Keep your priorities straight.
Don’t ever forfeit time with God for ministry.
3. Take your thoughts captive.
Something I’ve learned is to take the thoughts captive that inevitably come: I’m not ready. I’m not adequate. They have the wrong girl. If God brought this speaking engagement my way, He must think I’m the woman for the job. Praise Him; His strength really is made perfect in our weakness!
I read over the talks and pray. I pray a lot. I feel my great need for God while speaking. It’s not like writing where you can edit; once it’s out of your mouth, it’s out there. So I pray. Where words are many, sin is close by. I want to be aware of that.
I also try to chat with those I’ll be speaking with (in the crowd). I want to be their friend, if even for that moment. I like to relate with them so that when I’m up there, it’s clear we are in this together.
I wake up early—even though I never sleep well the night before a speaking engagement—and spend time with God, in spite of the fact that I can barely keep my eyes open.
I arrive earlier than I think I need to be there, and I’ve yet to get there too early! There’s always something unexpected to attend to.
I like to greet women as they come in and get to know them a bit. (Sometimes I’ll change my examples and illustrations on the spot after I learn about women as they come in.)
After I’ve spoken, I thank God. He came through . . . again! Soon after the event, I write my host(ess) a thank-you note and journal about the event. It allows me to process and learn. I also update my prayer team, then try to rest. Easier said than done after all that excitement!
I bet you’ve learned a trick or two from your teaching experiences! What speaking tips can you share?
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10–11).
Sounds great, right? But a few wise people encouraged me to have someone else respond to guys on my behalf, and I wrote and posted the following message on the contact page of my website:
A note for the guys:
Sorry, gents, I know I just put myself out there as a boy-crazy girl, but the purpose of this site isn’t to find a guy. I’m sorry I won’t be responding to personal inquiries—too busy investing in the girls.
I knew my advisors were right. As much as I wanted to get married someday, that wasn’t why I wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl. So I “set my face like a flint” and continued investing in teen girls.
I instantly noticed that he had 1,000 followers and a blog where he’d done book reviews in the past. I was still hard at work marketing my book (contrary to popular belief, your work is just getting started once you finish a manuscript!). At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers, asking if I could send them a free copy of Confessions in exchange for an honest review.
So of course, I direct messaged Trevor, asking if he’d consider reading and writing a review of my book. He responded the same day, and our friendship began. He wrote a wonderful review of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, and we began to message each other on Facebook where we weren’t limited by 140 characters.
He seemed to be as busy as me, so there was more than once where a couple weeks passed with no Facebook messages, and I was certain our conversation would fizzle out (after all, that’s how the script had always gone!).
But somehow we kept talking, and after about four months, Trevor sent me the following message. (He had vacation days he needed to use up, and he’d been considering driving to Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference.)
I wanna shoot something by you and hear your thoughts. I was thinking, “Ya know what, Desiring God posts all of their content for free from all of their conferences, and I have been to their conferences before, and I know what the experience is like. So maybe I don’t need to drive all the way out to MN. But I certainly wouldn’t mind taking a vacation in September before my vacation time expires, and one very real option is to visit this Paula girl.” So, idk, those are some super general and preliminary thoughts, but what do ya think? Is southern MI a visit-worthy place? And will or will I not consume all of the chicken at the Chick-Fil-As in southern Michigan?
Eeeeeeee! I responded,
This Paula girl thinks that’s one of the best ideas she’s heard in a long time! MI is a swell place to vacation; an even better place to live. Let me put together a list of ideas for you and see what you think.
I was excited. I liked him. Of course I did! But still, I didn’t know if he liked me as anything more than a friend. Maybe he just thought it was cool to message an “author.” I couldn’t read him. Besides, experience had taught me that I shouldn’t ever assume a guy liked me until he specifically told me so himself.
And lest you think I never struggled again after writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, let me share a journal entry I wrote before Trevor visited:
Wow, God. Thank You for showing me Yourself just now as I spent time in Philippians 2 reading about how I was to “count others more significant than myself” and “look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
After reading this I grabbed my phone and went out to weed my garden. I checked and saw that Trevor was “active now” on Facebook, so I started a conversation with him about his hunting safety course.
He responded to my questions, but he didn’t ask me any to keep the conversation going. So I stopped the conversation and got back to weeding, feeling stupid and unloved.
I wasn’t counting him more significant than me. I never even considered that he might be in a conversation with someone else or . . .
How I need Your grace, Abba, to put on the mind of Christ and make myself nothing and serve Trevor without expecting anything in return. Maybe he legitimately just wants to be my friend and nothing more.
I recognize now that I’ll gladly host him on his vacation (and mine) IF he makes me feel attractive and interesting. But if he’s just not that into me, I’ll resent him and everything I plan and do for and with him.
What if this is not Your man for me? What if You want me to humble myself as You humbled Yourself and serve him as You served me, demanding nothing in return?
Ouch, ouch, ouch! Suddenly this passage became intensely personal. Oh God, thanks for humbling Yourself and obeying Your Father so You might save this proud, proud girl. Make me like Your beautiful self. Catch me up in the romance with You, not with a mere mortal.
With that I asked my close friends to pray with me that I would love Trevor well by showing him a great vacation—without expecting anything in return. I knew that apart from God’s power that would be impossible for me.
Then I journaled,
Trevor comes this week. Do you have something there beyond friendship? Lead me so clearly, Good, Kind Shepherd.
And oh, how He did. Check back tomorrow to read about Trevor’s visit.
This past month Michael Sam came out of the closet. This was a big deal because, if drafted, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.
In an ESPN interview, when asked what it was like to tell his teammates, Michael said, “I was kinda scared, even though they already knew, but I was still scared of telling them.”
Our culture views this kind of coming out as incredibly brave but wants to push Christians more and more “into the closet.” That’s why Pastor Trent Griffith challenged us this past Sunday, “I’m asking you to be at least as courageous as Michael Sam. Stop taking the path of least resistance. Come out Christian.”
Just that week I’d come out Christian in front of 120 freshmen at the local public high school. Because Jesus tells us to expect persecution, I wondered if they’d throw their lunches at me or kick me out . . . or both. It felt illegal. But of course it’s not. (At least not yet.)
So during the four-and-a-half hours while I shared writing tips as well as the process of writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, I openly identified myself as a Jesus-follower and spoke freely about Him. Then I offered a copy of Confessions to anyone who wanted one.
To my utter amazement, over eighty students lined up for a book. They didn’t throw anything, and they didn’t kick me out. In fact, the teachers said it was the most inspiring thing that’s happened all year.
It must’ve been my orange shoes. (Kidding!)
But in all seriousness, I did put on special “shoes” that day. Ephesians 6:15 describes them this way:
And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Let’s break that down. It basically means, “Always be prepared to share the good news of peace with God and total well-being through Him.”
Whether you’re headed to high school or just playing ball with your friend at the park, strap on the “shoes” He’s given you. Isaiah 52:7 says,
How beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
I’m not telling you to cart around a heavy Bible or plaster your car with bumper stickers or leave tracts in the girls’ bathroom. I’m asking you to share the good news of happiness with those who have no true hope. Don’t let the names and labels you might be called keep you from sharing the fact that God has gone to crazy lengths to have a relationship with anyone who will accept His free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus.
After all, this was Jesus’ last instruction to us before He returned to heaven to prepare His home for us:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20).
So how about it? What keeps you from coming out Christian?
The world is trying to shove Christians back in the closet, but I’m calling you out today. Will you join me?
Funny, for a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
It happened at the end of my week-long shopping marathon. My assignment that week was to find and purchase two killer outfits for a photo shoot for my upcoming book website.
Most women would kill to shop for an entire week, but I’d just about rather sign up for a week of boot camp. I only had ’til Friday, so every night that week found me searching the stores and racks.
Monday night was a smashing success only because of the help of a “shopper-iffic” friend.
Tuesday night I set out on my own and returned home with . . . one lone brown belt.
Wednesday my photographer instructed me to look for a third outfit. Bummer. But thanks to a cute boutique on the corner, I found an adorable maxi dress with a necklace heavy enough to require a chiropractor.
Thursday, the final night before the photo shoot, found me in town once again, frantically looking for a little sweater to wear over my maxi dress.
With ten minutes to spare before the mall locked its doors, I spotted it: a short, white, jean jacket. Never mind that it was $118 . . . the photo shoot was the next day, and it was perfect! Besides, I reasoned, I could keep the tags on it, wear it for a few minutes, and then return it.
Just to be sure, I checked very carefully with the clerk to be certain of the return policy. Once I was confident that I would be able to return it, I bought the jacket and dropped into my car with a sigh of relief. I had done it! I had found three outfits with not a day to spare.
But then the Holy Spirit chimed in. I hadn’t expected that, and I was not pleased. I mean, I was fine with wearing the jacket for a couple minutes and then returning it. Everyone does things like that. Besides, when would I find another jacket? The shoot was the next day. It wasn’t like I was hurting anyone or anything.
But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let up.
For a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
And then it hit me. This was a gift. It was the fear of the Lord I’d been asking for! At this moment, I was fully aware of His eyes on me. This decision just didn’t fit with the righteousness I’d been clothed with in Christ.
It sure didn’t feel like a gift in the moment, though. I tossed and turned on my bed, counting the cost of a fifth shopping trip. I’d have to miss work and make up my hours on the weekend. I’d have to go out into the humidity before the photo shoot, and my curls would be in danger of falling before I even arrived for pictures. I’d have to go in search of yet another jacket . . . and what if I didn’t find one?
Besides, wasn’t it enough that Jesus had died for my sins? Couldn’t He cover this little sin, too? Wouldn’t He forgive me?
But then, what would that do to our relationship? How long would I keep away from Him out of shame for intentionally ignoring His Spirit?
And did I really want my sin captured on film so I could be reminded of it every time I clicked on my website?
I knew what I had to do. Yes, Lord, I sighed, and fell asleep shortly after.
The next day I drove the familiar route to the mall. When the sales clerk asked what was wrong with the jacket, I confessed, “It’s not what’s wrong with the jacket . . . it’s what’s wrong with me.” Once the jacket was returned, I went in search of another one . . . and found it a few minutes later for $35! It was a bit too big, but it would do. With that, I was off to my shoot.
Miracle of miracles (and much thanks to Kenra Volume Spray), I am here to report that my curls withstood the humidity, I sported three new adorable outfits, and most of all, I smiled without a twinge of guilt, fully aware of the Lord’s kindness to me.
How about you? What have you been asking the Lord to teach you? Are you willing to let Him teach you through a life situation that costs you something?