A Storyteller’s Evening

Do you ever wonder how you can know for certain you’re on the path The Lord intends for you when every step forward seems painfully slow? For me, it always happens in one of two ways: First, the positive impact of my actions is clearly and immediately visible. Then, sometimes God will present me with an opportunity I’ve dreamed of, but honestly never imagined feasible. Even though I’m actually writing this more than two weeks later, I back dated this post to remind myself of the day God gave me both. It always amazes me to  see the way He weaves situations together to touch others. When I spoke at Dr. Trent’s Stronger marriage and family conference back in May, I briefly touched on how storytelling can help in building relationships and promote healing from hardships. Dr. Trent really liked the concept and said he’d like to explore it further at some point.

So, I waited…Watching to see what God was going to do with that.

A few months later, he approached me with an idea at Kari’s (his daughter and my close friend from high school) wedding reception. “How would you feel about speaking to one of my classes at Moody this spring? I want to expand on the idea of storytelling with my graduate students.”

“Yes! I’d be honored,” I replied. But, then I had an internal freak-out. Wow! This is going to be awesome! Wait… Me? Speak at Moody Bible Institute??!!! Am I qualified for that? (Moody is one of the most prestigious seminaries/Christian colleges in the world) 

God reminded me I’d asked Him to use my story. He wouldn’t give me an opportunity like this if I wasn’t ready for it.  He was right, of course.

The Class was called Contemporary Issues in Marriage and Family. The campus is in Chicago, but I was able to speak remotely via Zoom Video Conferencing. Dr. Trent really just wanted me to share a little of my story, the inspiration behind The Little Butterfly Girl and how I’ve used “narrative” on my journey. He was trying to drive home the point that sharing one’s experiences with others will help reveal the purpose of their hardships. I gave the class a couple creative mind map worksheets and seven questions that every personal narrative story should answer:

  1. Who are the key people in your story? 
  2. What is the main trauma or struggle you’re facing?
  3.  When did it start?
  4.  What was your turning point or the thing that made you seek help?
  5.  Where are you now? 
  6. Why did you decide to share your story? 
  7. What is your message or how do you want to encourage others through your story?  

The class was extremely receptive and asked really thoughtful questions. It was so rewarding! And as an added blessing a few days later, Dr. Trent invited five of the students from that class to come on Moody Radio’s Chris Fabry Live with him and discuss the “issues” that made the biggest difference to them. John, the only guy in the group, picked the importance of story as his takeaway! My heart is bursting!  You can listen to the radio segment here.  I’m humbled, thankful and incredibly blessed!


“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” – 1 Peter 5:10 NLT

The Road to Recovery

I have a whole knew respect for teachers. I’ve recently come to realize that when God puts you in any sort of teaching position, He has lessons for you to learn as well. Over the last couple months, I’ve had the privilege of leading workshops for members of the S.T.A.R. Centers (Stand Together and Recover). Most of the members in attendance were recovering from abuse or overcoming the challenges of mental illness and wanted to learn how to use their experiences to encourage others on similar journeys.

So, in light of their special circumstances, I made a few alterations to my usual “Transforming the Heart of YOUR Story” workshop to create “Sharing Your Recovery Story.” I was totally inspired by all the participants and their support of each other! We had a few big lessons emerge from the discussions. One was: healing begins with forgiveness and another was, sharing your story will ease your own hurts as much as it will lift up your audience.

In terms of storytelling, we covered the importance of not lingering on the trauma, but focusing on the tools one uses for recovery and how they can be passed on. There were those who want to speak to groups, a few interested in making videos and podcasts and some looking to become authors.  No matter how they ultimately decide to tell their stories, everyone echoed the desire to share one message: “You aren’t alone. There is better out there for you.”

My heart was so full!  It’s just like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7: He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.”

If you know of another group that would benefit from these workshops, please leave their contact info. in the comments or e-mail me here.

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 Slowly Unfolding

I’m always grateful for Spring. It’s the time when all things are made new again with img_2606warmth and sunlight. That usually also means The Lord will open new doors for me if I’m paying enough attention to find them. He led me through a few pretty big ones this year (Spring) and I realize I’m late in writing about them, but their full impact is only just now becoming clear.

On April 9th, I was honored to be a returning guest speaker for this year’s Arizona Partners in Leadership class through Pilot Parents of Southern Arizona (formerly called Partners in Policymaking). This year, I shared my personal insight into living independently; reflecting on the two years I spent in my own apartment. I felt so blessed to be able to provide some realistic, but still hopeful answers to a few tough questions and make many parents laugh at the same time. It was also a beneficial exercise for myself… Pinpointing exactly what I learned from the experience despite struggling with feelings of failure because my parents and I are now sharing a house again.

13076880_10153800060092600_6428832441100781645_nA couple weeks later, I had a very successful booth at the Ability 360 Health & Wellness fair. Everyone that came by the table seemed genuinely interested in my workshop and extremely enthusiastic about all the possibilities and variations of personal storytelling in general. I even connected with a fellow writer with a similar passion for telling realistic, but still encouraging stories of people with disabilities who is interested in starting a writing group with that focus. I’m beyond excited to see what comes of it in the fall!

The last part of May brought a huge and unexpected answer to prayer with it.  I was able to visit my precious cheer buddy from high school, Kari in the Seattle area. Kari works for her dad John’s ministry called The Center for Strong Families. They have been two of the biggest supporters of my gifts since I first wrote The Little Butterfly Girl  nearly ten years ago (John wrote the foreword). And since I began to discover my calling as a speaker, I’ve hoped to find an opportunity to partner with them at an event. Well, I know The Lord was listening to the whispers of my heart because John received a last-minute request to put on his Stronger Marriage and Family conference at a fairly large church near where I would be staying. Seeing a Divine opportunity emerging, they asked me to come and share a little of my story/experience with the group, as well. I was thrilled for the opportunity, but very insecure too… Sorta like I was just “crashing the party.”I mean,  what could I add to a marriage and family conference? But, in her usual loving wisdom, Kari reminded me that God obviously had aa1e95c2b-e34b-40f3-8eba-d28c903f2853 plan in motion.  So, I said a few quick “Lord, use me” prayers and went with it. She was right, of course. Come to find out, many of the couples in attendance were in a great deal of pain, so my message that The Lord is much bigger than even our most difficult hardship was absolutely necessary. I was incredibly  humbled and blessed by the response I received.

The last event I’ll share in this post happened on June 8th (see main photo). I was invited to do the Transforming the Heart of YOUR Story Workshop with the Peer/Mentor group at Ability 360 Center. If I’m being honest, it was a bit intimidating to walk in the door and have 28 people expectantly waiting to hear what I had to teach them on only my third session, but at the same time I was totally psyched! Everyone was broken up into groups and it was such a thrill to listen to the steady flow of conversation and watch the ideas flourish. I even had a couple people say doing the workshop inspired them to start writing a book! Talk about a clear sign that is my calling! God is so good to me.

Ephesians 2:10 was brought to my attention recently, which says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Just another reminder that not only do my wheels have a higher purpose, but there’s a reason for everyone’s story.

 

A New Chapter 

When I decided to start Brooke’s Butterfly Touch last fall, creating a group workshop seemed like a far off goal, but the desire kept coming up in my thoughts and prayers. So, I let some ideas roll around and grow in my mind before sitting down with my sweet, like-minded “go-to girl” Jolene to write an outline of what my workshop would look like. Thankfully, she understood that my intention was not to focus solely on independent writing. Obviously, writing would be a large part of the workshop, but I believe personal storytelling is an effective tool for inspiring hope and initiating positive change in our communities because it requires active communication and connecting with others, which will foster greater mutual understanding. Therefore, I wanted to give the workshop participants space to interact and bounce ideas off one another. The outline Jolene and I generated over our favorite Frappuccinos at Starbucks allowed me to create an interactive slide presentation filled with personal storytelling tips, writing prompts, discussion questions and examples. And more importantly, The Lord also gave me the words and focus to write the official “Transforming the Heart of YOUR Story” workbook, which will be available on the mass market next month!

Thanks to my supportive friends at Highlands Church, the first workshop session was held on November 1, 2015 and was a wonderful afternoon. My heart was bursting at the enthusiasm and thoughtful input of all the participants. Everyone seemed really excited to go home and continue working on their stories afterwards. While not everything went perfectly smooth, the feedback I received gave me some great points on which to improve and expand the workshop to benefit even more people.

I’m incredibly thankful for God’s patient guidance in showing me His plans for my passions and skills. I’d love nothing more than to be a blessing to you as well, so anyone interested in hosting or joining the next workshop, please let me know!

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” – Philippians 2:13

Download the workshop flyer to share here.

The Blessing of Giving Hope

Today, February 7, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Arizona Partners in Policymaking (PIP) ’14-’15 class sponsored by Pilot Parents of Tucson.  Not only is this group close to my heart because I am a PIP alumnus myself and it’s a honor to be asked back as a presenter, but the majority of the participants are ones I most enjoy encouraging– parents of young kids with disabilities.  I know that may seem strange, but here’s why: I’ve discovered just how intensely they can worry about their children’s future roles in society and it’s a distinct blessing to be a real-life example of what achievements are possible.

Those I met today were extremely welcoming and eager to learn from my experiences.  They asked some new, very thoughtful questions, which was a ton of fun!  Topics of inquiry ranged from my favorite assistive technology devices and communication apps from Assistive Ware to my experiences at ASU and my current daily living routines.  I’ve always said I’ll answer anything because you never know when something that seems insignificant to me may be the sign or solution at the heart of an audience member’s prayers.  It’s always the best part of a presentation day when my first round of Q & A spurs on a second, even more in depth batch of questions and with my responses dawns a visible light of hope on all the participants’ faces.  I know I’ve done my job when someone thanks me with, “you’ve given me so many new ideas for my kids!”

I hope I’ll get to help them share their stories someday!

“With God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26

A couple of the attendees asked me if they could have a copy of my presentation, so the written speech and PowerPoint slides can be downloaded by clicking the link below.  Enjoy!

Brooke Brown’s PIP Presentation Folder

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A Message Bigger than Technical Difficulties

On January 14, I had the privilege of sharing my “Discover the Power in YOUR Story” presentation with the Peer Mentor Group at Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL).  The overall message profoundly resonated with the participants, spurring a fantastic  Q & A session.  My reason for delaying a post about it was because I had so many technical errors that day, I was kind of embarrassed to make it public.  All the photos taken were lost, my PowerPoint didn’t work, I had to restart the second half of my speech when I accidentally let my phone auto-lock and the batteries in my video camera died, so the best questions weren’t recored.

However, as I was determining the best way to edit the video I did get, something hit me: God is infinitely bigger than any of these mistakes. If He could still use my words to encourage the hearts of those who had to endure my mishaps in person, He can definitely do something through the imperfect video.

I pray it speaks to you.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28