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Links + Thinks

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I woke up from a nap yesterday wanting something cheesy, doughy, chicken + broccoli-y. So I did a little brainstorming and came up with this Chicken Pocket! The recipe’s below. First, here’s the notable awesomeness from the past week.

 

Links (interesting posts and news from the last week)

Danielle LaPorte is creating a licensing program for The Desire Map. To which I say, hell yeah! I want in on this.

Jeremy Dowsett wrote an extremely helpful article about what his bike taught him about white privilege.

This post from Katie on Rebelle Society about called Stop Standing in Your Own Way spoke to me BIG time. If you need encouragement about your art today, read it!

A possible Full House revival?? HOW IS THIS NOT BIGGER NEWS?

Speaking of reunions, Jimmy Kimmel got half the cast of Friends back together again! He’s so silly.

My friend Jenipher wrote this amazing book for girls called How Being Stubborn, Depressed, and Unpopular Saved My Life. You’ve got to read this. All the heart warms.

And, last of all, my most popular post this week, A Blessing for Seventh Grade.

 

+ Thinks (ideas, concepts, and all the things taking up space in my brain right now)

A few months ago, I got the name for an idea that hasn’t fleshed itself completely out yet. #thedailyshalom would be (I think) a question or a prompt (every day, of course) to help you find creative solutions to the issues you’re presently facing. Haven’t decided exactly how to I want to do it. But I’m excited to watch it evolve.

I had a couple new business ideas that could go somewhere, I think. I want to put together a social media bio package. I can write your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram bios, as well as the intro on the sidebar of your blog! Also, I want to start showcasing my ghostwriting skills for companies who want to have a meaningful blog but don’t specialize in writing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about breakthrough this week. And connections. How do all the pieces of my work fit together? Meditating on what it all means. No doubt, I’ll be back next week with a bunch of powerful epiphanies. So, get excited. ;)

 

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pocket

For the filling:

  • Two large chicken breasts, seasoned and oven baked at 350 for 25-30 minutes
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup of white cheddar
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli, microwaved, chopped in small pieces, and seasoned with salt and pepper

For the dough:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4oz yeast packet
  • 9oz hot water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of season salt (I use Lawry’s)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Dash of dried basil and oregano
  • 1 egg (to brush on top of the dough)

 

1. Bake the chicken, set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 450. Combine sugar, yeast, hot water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until frothy and creamy looking.
3. Put flour, salt, spices, and olive oil in a bowl and stir together.
3. When yeast mixture is ready, pour in and stir until it becomes too doughy to stir.
4. Knead with your hands until it’s a ball and then roll into a circle about 10-12 inches across.
5. In another bowl, shred chicken and add cream cheese, cheddar and cooked broccoli. Stir to mix.
6. Spoon chicken mixture into dough. Pick up one side of dough and pull it over to the other, covering the chicken and creating a half-moon shape.
7. With a fork, press down along the edge to make cool notches and to seal the dough. Use a knife to create longer notches on the top.
8. In a small bowl, crack open egg and stir it up. Brush over top of dough.
9. Place pocket on greased baking sheet and baked for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

Thanks for stopping by! I write a weekly newsletter all about Voice. How to use yours to make the world a better place. How to give a platform to the voices of the world that we desperately need to hear. If that sounds like something you’d like to read more about, sign up here. You’ll get a free book and a few surprises when you do.

Brandy Blogs the Bible :: Week One

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Hi. And Wow. Welcome to the Bible.

Quick warning: This blog has to introduce the story of the Bible, the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible) and, of course, delve into the first 16 chapters of Genesis, um, so, it may run a bit long.

The Bible as Story

In The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight describes God as the ultimate protagonist. He shares the story like this.

1. God and creation
2. Adam and Eve as Eikons who crack the Eikon
3. God’s covenant community, where humans are restored to God, self, others, and the world
4. Jesus Christ, who is the Story and in whose story we are to live
5. The church as Jesus’ covenant community
6. The consummation, when all the designs of our Creator God will finally be realized forever and ever

Note: As I understand it, Eikon means image, or likeness of heavenly things.

The Hebrew Bible

It gets a bad rap. It’s boring. And when it’s not boring God is telling people to commit genocide. It’s also really long.

I got lucky. When I first began to follow Jesus, I stumbled upon this Bible study and it was full of amazing young Christians passionate about loving God and each other. We worked our way through a lot of the Torah, chapter by chapter each week, starting in Genesis. I remember every time I was blown away by something new. It was ridiculous. And wonderful. James-Michael [the amazing guy who held and led the Bible study] taught me to love it, to wrestle with it, and ultimately, to read it. Actually, you know what? If it weren’t for that Bible study, I may not be writing this blog.

Here’s the point I hope I’m making: The Bible is hard. God is ridiculous [in a good way, I think]. There is some crazy stuff in the Old Testament. But there is also rhythm and reason to the madness. And it’s a little bit amazing.

Genesis 1:1-16:16

My husband, Jermaine, suggested I synopsi-size you with the skinny at the start of each blog. Seems like a pretty good idea. So, here:

Chapter 1—God is the ultimate creative genius—and it was good, a poem. Chapter 2—God finishes his masterpiece and rests, then the text seems to go back a bit and elaborate on this beautiful creation. The final creation is a second person, Eve, made using a piece of the first person, Adam, to be a companion. Chapter 3—She eats an apple and invites Adam to do the same. God doles out a fair amount of curses. Chapter 4—Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, show up. Abel’s offering pleases God. Cain’s offering doesn’t. So, Cain does the logical thing and kills his brother. Another curse from God, followed by Cain’s family line. Chapter 5—Geneology from Adam to Noah. Chapter 6—God is so not happy with the state of humanity’s heart, that God sends a flood to kill everyone except Noah, who is commanded to build an ark for himself, his family, and all the animals. Noah listens. Chapter 7—They enter the ark and God sends rain for 150 days. Chapter 8—They wait for a long freaking time—until the water has receded enough for them to leave the ark. Chapter 9—God makes the first covenant—a big deal, one for all people—never again will God kill off everyone. The sign of the covenant—a rainbow. After that, Noah drinks too much and ends up naked. His son, Ham, sees him and so, when Noah wakes up he curses Canaan (Ham’s son) and blesses Shem and Japheth (Noah’s two other sons). Chapter 10—Noah’s family line. Chapter 11—People decide to build this huge tower to reach to heaven. God is not excited about this and so God decides to confuse their language. Next, we go back to the business of lineage and find out how to get from Shem to Abram. Chapter 12—Abram is introduced with another covenant from God (talk about an entrance). This is one of the most important chapters in the Bible, and the climax of Genesis. Also, there’s a famine in the land, so Abram goes to Egypt for food. While he’s there he lies and tells Pharaoh that Sarai, his wife, is his sister because he’s afraid Pharaoh will kill him and try to take her if he doesn’t. Chapter 13—Abram and Lot (his nephew) go their separate ways to help nip a family feud in the bud. Lot picks the good land. Chapter 14—There is some sort of huge war going on. Lot gets caught up in it and Abram comes to his rescue. Sometime shortly after, Melchizadek, priest of the God Most High, appears with bread and wine. And there is some foreshadowing in regards to tithe and communion. Chapter 15—Again, God promises to bless Abram and his offspring (the ones he doesn’t have yet). Abram asks how and God answers by putting him in a deep dark sleep and telling him about the horrors of slavery that his ancestors will inevitably have to face. Chapter 16—Here we find out that Sarai is barren and antsy. She has her servant sleep with Abram to bear his seed. It all blows up in her face. Hagar, her servant, despises her, Sarai is jealous and abuses Hagar (and blames Abram). Hagar runs away but God comforts her and tells her to go back. He gives her a name for her son and says he will be a “wild donkey of a man”. We end here, with the birth of Ishmael. Abram is 86.

It’s 2:27am. I don’t have to be up super early tomorrow, but I’m going to have to work on starting earlier if I want to still blog on mornings where I do. I told Jermaine how this whole thing was progressing so far and he gave me friendly warning about length. I promise to try to keep things as short and sweet as possible (after this blog, of course).

Now for the fun part, tho.

Things to keep in mind: I am not an expert. I used to be pretty daggone good at apologetics, but I’ve avoided the Bible for the several years. It’s almost like new territory. I decided to take on this project to share my own perspective. My goal is to be honest, interesting, and to not worry so much about “supposed to”. Spoiler Alert: I’m probably wrong. And being right is not my endgame. 

One of the coolest things from chapter 2—we’re made from dust and the breath of God. So, I can’t not plug the Wild Goslings trailer, right?

ALRIGHT, NEW PLAN. I’ve thought about it and there’s just too much stuff that begs a response in chapters 2-3. It needs its own blog post. So, since I get to make up the rules, I’m going to dive deeper into that next week and wait to move on to the second reading.

I looked up “sons of God” and Nephilim in the Apologetics Study Bible. KJV popularized translating Nephilim as “giants” (as opposed to just tall people). The sons of God could refer to a barbaric warrior class of people or Seth’s chosen descendants intermarrying with the “wicked Canaanite women” [ pg. 15].

What’s up with Noah getting drunk and then cursing his grandson? I always thought he’d cursed his son. He’s the one who saw him naked (btw—if you saw someone naked back in the OT, shame on you – not them)!

One of my secret ridiculous ambitions is to learn all of the languages in the world. But it seems a little too tower of Babelish, right?

I love how the priest Melchizadek is thrown into this random war scene in Chapter 14 and is all about sitting back and chillaxing with bread and wine.

In the covenant with Abram, God says God is Abram’s “very great reward”. You have to love a deity with swagger. I also love that Abram was blessed to bless others. That’s a thing for me, in life. When the “Who I am?” creep like whoa, I take heart in this part.

Okay, “wild donkey of a man.” Hagar seems way comforted, but if God told me that about my son, I don’t know how I’d feel.

We’ll dive into Adam and Eve and original sin next week. Yep. Get excited. Things might get illuminating.

If you’d like to sign up and get the weekly updates of these Thursday posts and all the rest (that’s one email a week), you can do that here. Plus, I wrote book and when you sign up, you’ll get that, too.

And if you’d like to read the first post in this series, here it is.

How to Own Your Awesome and Write Your Best Bio

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Yesterday, I shared how I became a copywriter and asked if you had any burning bio questions. Boy, did you!

Here are your questions and my answers.

I hope they help clear up some of the muddiness and fear that surrounds the ever elusive bio.

>>>Writing my bio always feels uncomfortable. Do you have any tips to make a bio seem more like I’m saying a friendly hello without it sounding like I’m selling myself?

First, I feel compelled to say that I don’t think selling yourself and your work is a bad thing. But I hear you. The good news is that you get to decide the tone of your work. I think that’s true even in a corporate setting, because you can be professional and still be yourself. But it’s most definitely true on your own website—you get to make the rules.

The most helpful thing to consider: What’s your goal for this bio? What do you want people to be inspired to do after they finish reading about you? Follow you on Twitter? Sign up for a free consultation? Buy your book? Read your best blog posts? What exactly are you selling? Why? How will it improve their life or their day? Is it a slick and shady thing you’re trying to do? Probably not, right? In fact, you’re probably helping them. If “selling” rubs you the wrong way, think of it as sharing information.

 

>>>I also feel such pressure to be so clever and cute, yet also informative. What might be some tips on finding the balance—what’s the goal of the bio? To inform? To hook people? How can you be clever without sounding like a junior higher one-upping others in how cool she is?

There is a joke I could make here, but, like I said before, I’m not very funny. But, as I happen to be clever, cute, and also informative, I think I know how to answer the question.

Do you feel pressure to be clever and cute at work or at home? Are clever and cute descriptors you would use to describe yourself? Is informative? You get to be you. How would you describe yourself? If your voice has serious eyes, then it’s okay if your bio does too. If you’re sarcastic and cynical, it’s okay to write that way. In fact, it’s preferable.

I am idealistic, optimistic, and, some might say, naïve. I make money being those things. And you can, too.

The real goal of the bio . . . this goes back to what you’re selling. What is your reader’s next right step? What is YOUR ultimate goal? Knowing your endgame will keep the one-upper feelings at bay.

But also? It’s okay to own your awesome. For real. You could even say it’s important. And sharing that with the world is not a junior high school game.

 

>>>What’s important to include? And what’s not?

What makes you stand out from others in your field? What are you passionate about? What credentials do you have, either from time and experience or education and the letters at the end of your name? What is unique about you?

I’m not sure I have a hard and fast list of what NOT to include (my brain doesn’t work that way), but I’d say your intuition is your best tool in figuring that out. Does it fit? Does it make sense? Do you want to include it? Do you like that part of your story? Is it relevant to their next right step?

 

>>>I have a diverse résumé and always have trouble . . . do I say less in a bio and then confuse people when things come up later? It seems like too much to list, or am I afraid of sounding haughty? How do I cover my bases without sounding like a flake?

Okay, it depends. Generally speaking, I’m in the school of “list all the things”. See my bio. But, there are times it actually doesn’t make sense. For example, my bio as a Story Coach is specific to my credentials as a coach. Rule of thumb: Your bio should probably reference all the products and services you’re selling on the site it appears. UNLESS you want your readers to focus in one or two specific areas.

Plus, I feel like it’s safe bet that if you’re worried about being haughty, you’re probably not coming off that way.

Also helpful: Are you aiming for mastery or “I can do all the things”? There is no wrong answer. It’s up to your preference. Would you rather showcase your expertise or the variety of skills you’re schooled in?

 

>>>I totally freeze when I try to write something. I am horribly literal. How do I get out of my head and just have fun with it?

I’m a freezer, too. Music helps. In my bio interviews, I ask my clients to share the soundtrack of their lives in five songs. And then, before I write their bio, I listen to their music. I dance or meditate depending on the song choice and their personality. I’m a pretty high-strung, serious person, and this does wonders to help me relax.

Also, 20 minute power naps. And permission to write a shitty first draft. I know there are different schools of thought on this, but I don’t edit as I go. I get it all out. Editing is my second art. But getting words on paper makes me feel like moving forward.

 

>>>How much background should you really give?

Brené Brown wrote this amazing book called Daring Greatly and in it she talks about this thing she calls “Letting It All Hang Out” which is basically oversharing as a tactic to guard against vulnerability and reading it, I started hyperventilating because . . . I’m a sharer. Like whoa. For a long time, it was a great source of shame. I had to do a lot of work figure out what is okay to share and what isn’t.

Here’s what I realized: It’s not the end of the world if you share too much. It’s not the end of the world if you share too little. Even in this, there is grace. I think, to answer your question, it goes back to what feels relevant. But if you press publish and parts of it make you squirm, there’s always the edit button.

 

>>>Is there a good answer to how long it should be? Because I hear keep it short and I hear write your entire life story and I just don’t even know which way to turn.

Most of the bios I write for entrepreneur’s websites are between 400-600 words. If you need a mini bio for guest post or a speaking event, they’re often between 50-200 words. I find that it’s easier to write the longer one first, and then condense it to essentials for the mini.

 

I hope this was helpful! If you have another question, post it in the comments and I will reply. And! I want to empower people to write about themselves with clarity and confidence, but it’s also okay to hire me! I think you’re kind of amazing. And I would like to share that with the world.

How I Became a Copywriter + What I’ve Learned Writing Other People’s Bios

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I wasn’t expecting this gift. Writing bios was never on my radar back in the days when I would dream about my future writerly life. In the spring of 2011, I took an e-course by Tara Gentile called The Art of Action and in it, I was introduced to an amazing copywriter named Kelly Diels. I was smitten immediately.

I stalked her for a while. Her prose is like crack. And then, one day, she emailed me to say that she’d noticed my work and was impressed. She said I reminded her of her (!) and she offered a free coaching session!

I have never jumped so fast. It felt like I’d made it to the big time. It was that conversation that first got me thinking about my own career as a copywriter.

I ended up taking two e-courses with Kelly —Artful, Heart-full Blogging and Write Me, I’m Yours. I learned more about the art of writing in her classes than in all my college English courses combined. And, I reasoned, if she thought I was similar to her, who was I to argue?

To dip my toe in the water, I wrote up a little ditty on my blog and offered my bio writing non-expertise for free to a few good friends. On and off, for about a year starting in the summer of 2011, you could hire me to write your bio. But no one did. I was a little ahead of myself, which I usually am. The folks that got the freebies loved my work. But I hadn’t built up enough street cred at that point to make people feel comfortable exchanging monies with me over the internet.

Finally, in 2012, I retired my biography abilities and focused on other projects.

Besides, I thought, it didn’t make any sense. I’m nothing if not impractical. Copywriting didn’t fit the dreamy, shalom-filled business I thought I was building. But the idea never completely went away. And every once in a while I would see someone’s About Me page and my brain would flood with all these ideas of what that person could do to make their magic shine.

So. Earlier, this year, because the whim wouldn’t leave, I created a sales page and announced to the world that I was bio-ing once again. Right away, four people messaged me to say they were interested!

I’d never had that kind of immediate response. My street cred had come in, apparently! I got to work. And business flourished. I only take a handful of clients each month, but the spots almost always fill up.

Writing someone else’s bio terrifies me.

Every single time. It’s scary to sing in another person’s voice and then share that song with them, hoping against hope I’m not out of tune.

When you need to combat fear, it helps to make a record of what you know. In the last several months, I’ve learned a few things about myself, my work, and what biography really is.

These Three Things

I am naturally good at this. I have no idea how. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t really even study. To a certain degree, this is a talent I’ve been given. It is my responsibility and joy to use it well.

Copywriting is an art. This helps the dreamer in me. The craft is important. It’s one thing to be gifted. But success is 10% natural ability and 90% blood, sweat, and tears. No matter how good I am, it’s always my job to study and learn and improve.

Writing bios makes the world a better place. I get to see my client. With clear eyes, and especially the parts that they struggle against. People don’t just hire me because they don’t want to write their own bio. They hire me to help them SEE. To find the light switch. It’s an exercise in shalom.

I believe in your light. I want to empower you to see it, too. Writing bios is healing. For everyone involved. And I am in the business of creative healing.

I asked the Story Sessions Community if anyone had questions about how craft their own bio. Several people replied and I’m working on my answers this afternoon. I’ll post them here tomorrow as soon as I’m finished. If you want to learn how to write a better bio—for yourself or other people—please, come back tomorrow and check out the Q&A.

And if you have a burning bio question, comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it!

So much love.

P.S. I write a newsletter all about Voice. It’s full of resources on how to use yours to make the world a better place. You can sign up for that here. Bonus, when you do, you’ll get a free book I wrote, too.

P.P.S. If you do need someone to write your bio, I have one more spot available in September and a few openings in October and November. Here’s all the info, if you’re interested.

Monday Memoirs :: A Blessing For 7th Grade

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“I’m three now, but in a minute, I’ll be 18.” +Sadie Maria

A few months ago, my mom gave me a box filled with papers that I wrote when I was 11. It is shocking how well I knew myself back then.

I wanted to be a writer. I was afraid of popular people and bears. I wanted peace and no wars. I needed love, understanding, and imagination.

I don’t remember that part of 11 years old. I don’t remember the thoughtful little girl I used to be. I remember the insecurities. Getting the pictures developed from my birthday party and realizing with dismay how awful my butt looked.

My daughter started 7th grade this morning. I am a wreck with how grown she’s becoming, in mind, body, and soul. She’s started taking selfies all the time. She read somewhere that it boosts your self-confidence. When she does something that makes her feel embarrassed, she laughs and shrugs, “I’m awesome.” I am in awe of my girl already actively combating negative self-talk.

She’s a natural encourager. She seeks out and befriends people who often get written off as odd or awkward. People praise me for how kind she is. And I’m so proud, but I didn’t teach her that. I struggle with it myself. She’s taught me a lot about how not to care about being cool.

On the way to school this morning, she told me she surely wouldn’t forget her backpack because she notices when she doesn’t have her purse—even when it’s empty! I had to stifle a giggle. When she was in preschool, she learned quickly not to forget her lunch bag. Because it was very likely I’d forget if she didn’t grab it, and then we’d have to turn around, go all the way back home, and both of us would be late for school.

She’s been through a lot in her 12 short years and it’s easy for me to get caught in the hard stuff. To lament about what breaks my heart the most.

But today, with her smile so bright, and the way her brother sleepily complained that he needed to go to school with her because he was going to miss her too much, I cannot help but celebrate the tiny miracles she constantly invites me to notice.

My middle school experience was brutal. My uncle died of cancer. Friends abandoned and betrayed me. I got made fun of a lot. I felt uncool, stupid, and naïve. I learned what depression was. I’m sure there was good, but I don’t remember much of it. I was just very glad when it was over.

I don’t want to put that on Sadie. I can’t write her story, but I can point out the beauty as I see it. We can look for the tiny miracles together.

I want to keep a record, like my mom did. As the years go by, if Sadie starts struggling to remember who she is, I want to be able to show her the thoughtful little girl who knows herself so well. I want to do my part to bless this journey she’s on.

I asked my Story Sisters to help me write a blessing for Sadie’s new school year. Beth, Morgan, Rachel, Abby, Gayl, Jenny, Elizabeth, and Shona each added lines to help create this powerful piece.

May it bless you, too. And the middle schooler you have. Or the one you used to be.

A Blessing for 7th Grade

 

As the bells ring out

And blank pages fill up with stories of epic summers,

May you walk through new doors boldly,

Share your voice confidently

And embrace your thoughts and ideas passionately knowing

That who you are is good and that

Your place in this world

Matters.

 

As the books pile up on the new-to-you desk

And the folders that refused to be three-hole punched spill out

Of your favorite new binder,

May you always love your self,

Your whole self, your holy skin, your heart of hearts,

Without fear or shame.

 

Sadie, I bless you with knowing

Your own heart and

Finding friends who will also love its sacredness.

With whom you can laugh

Until you cry and your belly aches!

May you be a girl who gives others

The gift of finding

The joy in every situation.

 

As your fingers fumble with the combination of

Your very own locker

In excitement and nervous joy,

May you carry kindness in palms held open wide,

For yourself and all who you meet.

 

May you try, and fail, and try again.

May you see your golden soaring moments and

Your bruises as blessings, equally sacred.

 

As the tables fill up in the cafeteria

And the friends you made this morning usher you

Over to sit with them,

May you remember the kid

Who needs a friendly smile.

May you be exceptionally kind,

Even in the face of cruelty.

 

May you never doubt your worth.

You are beautiful,

A unique individual created by God.

 

As you savor the laughter that fills study hall,

And breathe in the fresh, sweet air of the open courtyards,

May you find many happy moments,

And feel the sun on your skin often.

May you smile and know that you are loved.

 

May your teachers be kind and interesting.

May you have grace for their human-beingness

When they are not.

 

May your feet find holy ground in the most mundane places.

May glory rest between your fingers like ink.

May you always hold Light close, a lantern

For your footsteps.

 

May you never lose your muchness.

 

May this school year be filled with all kinds of good things.

French class and english reports,

Art and music and basketball and friendships that last

A lifetime.

 

May the girl you are now ever

Embrace the inspiring woman you are

Becoming.

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If you’re into Monday Memoirs and you want to get better at using your voice to make the world a sweeter place, sign up here for the weekly newsletter. Bonus—when you do, you’ll get a book I wrote about saving the world and other beautiful nonsense.

And, if there is someone special you would like to bless this new school year, please, add a line in the comments below!

 

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