Monthly Archives: November 2017

Conquering the ACT (Lauren Brannan)

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On hearing anything about the ACT mentioned, many students are filled with anxiety or sometimes just frustration. The ACT is a standardized test for high school achievement used by most colleges to select students during admissions. Although this test is important, it truly does not measure a student’s intelligence level. Taking the test is simply a skill, which can be learned with time and effort. If you personally do not excel at taking standardized tests, it does not mean you will automatically not be able to get into college.

One of the best things for most people is to take an ACT prep class, or if you need more individual help, there are personal tutors that will help you in the specific areas you are struggling in. Now, before you go ahead and sign up for a prep class, it is best to take the ACT one time first with no prep. This simply shows where you are to start with, if you do really need help, and what areas you struggle with most.

Besides taking an ACT prep course, there are a few other small tips that can help you have an overall better ACT experience. First off, make sure you have everything ready the night before. It sounds simple, but not having to scramble in the morning to make sure you have everything can save you a lot of stress and help prevent you from being late and missing the test. Another helpful tip is to bring some sort of mint with you into the testing room. After getting halfway through the test, many students find it harder and harder to concentrate; and it has been shown that peppermint can help keep one more focused and alert. Finally, it is vital to stay focused and not let your environment distract you during the test. Whether it is someone in front of you tapping a pencil or a pack of wild dogs running loose throughout the school while you are taking the test (which actually did happen for a group of test takers last year), you have to learn how to tune out everything but the test you are currently taking.

So even though the ACT is not fun, there are things you can do to make it a little less stressful.

Less is More (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have time”? Or maybe you have said it yourself. A common theme in the American way of life is busyness. We believe that we are not successful unless we have a million things to do. Somehow when we have three soccer games, a piano recital, and a cross country meet all in one weekend, we think that it is just what normal people do.

This idea of busyness is a total contradiction to the kind of life average Americans enjoyed less than two hundred years ago. After the work and school day was over, that was it. Families enjoyed the simple pleasures of eating dinner and a quiet evening together. There were no practices, extracurriculars, or meetings to rush to. And at the end of the week, Sundays were truly days of rest when no work was done and time was spent with God and family.

Sadly, these simple pleasures have been lost amid the busyness of people in the twenty-first century. For some odd reason, it feels strange when we do not have something we need to do. In fact, we almost seem not to know how to handle free time. So maybe we fill it binging on the next season of a Netflix show, scrolling through our phones, or watching highlights of the football game we already saw last weekend.

We need to learn to say no. We need to allow ourselves time to breathe, time to get outside, time to read a book, time to eat a family meal around the dinner table with everyone. I know, it sounds impossible. However, when we do take that time to step back from the chaos of life, the feeling is remarkable. The stress and pressures of life are relieved, and we are able to truly enjoy the present moment and the people we are with.

Sometimes, less truly is more.

Tattered Canvases (Nate Collins)

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The blazing sun greeted another sweltering, Florida day. My hair was plastered against my perspiring head, so I desperately stumbled towards the local water park. As I entered the sopping oasis, an overwhelming sea of tattoos greeted my sweat-stung eyes, and thus, I realized the suprising fact that I was in fact unique. As a simple blank canvas of skin, I stood out from the masses of tattooed individuals.

Was this good or bad? It was neither. However,​ ​as​ ​opposed​ ​to​ ​years​ ​past, when​ ​a​ ​tattoo was a taboo that ​set​ ​someone​ ​apart,​​ ​ nowadays tattoos seem to synthesize​ ​individuals​ ​into​ ​one ever-growing, ​human​ collective—those​ ​​marked​ ​for​ ​life.​ ​In this club, individuals almost haphazardly ​plaster​ ​their​ ​bodies​ ​with​ ​cliché​s,​ ​spiritual​ ​proverbs,​ ​and​ ​other​ sayings​, from the profound to the meaningless.​ ​And yet, why do we do ​this?​ ​What​ ​drives​ ​us​ ​as​ ​humans​ ​to​ ​alter​ ​or “enhance”​ ​our​ ​original​ ​form?​ ​Is​ ​it​ ​desperation,​ ​rebellion,​ ​stupidity,​ ​or​ ​maybe​ ​even​ ​hope, creativity,​ ​and​ ​adoration?​ On the other hand, what if​ ​our​ ​insatiable​ ​desire​ ​to​ ​improve—and in many cases, to ink—​ourselves, ​stems​ ​from​ ​an irritating​ ​forgetfulness—an amnesia of sorts?​ ​

We​ seem to have the hardest time ​getting​ one simple, albeit exceedingly profound, reality ​into​ ​our​ ​heads:  ​someone infinitely​ ​special​ ​loves​ ​us. We​ desperately ​try​ ​to​ ​fix and craft more pleasing versions of​ ​ourselves with constant hopes of being ​loved. With this in mind, ​I​ ​cannot ​help​ ​but​ ​wonder​ ​if​ ​the best ​​tattoo​ ​is​ ​one​ ​that​ ​overrides​ ​our ​constant amnesia​ ​and​ ​reminds​ ​us day in and day out of the ever-present reality that we​ are loved by God and thus quite truly ​marked​ ​for​ ​life,​​ despite being nothing but a simple, ​tattered​ ​canvas.​

The Drama before the Drama (Lauren Hoaglund)

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Tech week: drama lingo for the final week before a show that all cast members dread and relish at the same time.

You just can’t beat the hysterical laughter caused by lack of sleep or the constant humming from cast members who can’t get the songs of the show out of their heads. It all begins with a Sunday night rehearsal: the rush of the first time the sound cues come in at just the right moment, the set changes pulled off without a hitch, the props you have been pretending to hold finally appearing in your hands.

Monday night brings mics and lights, two of the greatest hurdles we face in the theater department. The loud, vibrating hum of the microphones makes the whole cast shudder and falter on their lines. The bright spotlights make it impossible to see anyone else on stage.

By Tuesday, the exhaustion sets in. Eyes droop throughout the day. Teachers notice you are not quite with them in class. Full hair and makeup are required for this day’s run-through. A few mad scrambles and heart attacks later, you might just find your way to the theater in a timely fashion. When it’s finally time to start rehearsal, the character shoes are pinching a little too tightly, your earpiece starts to give you a headache, and your costumes have begun to lose their initial appeal. Each rehearsal feels a little less comfortable than it did a few nights before. Your timing is off on most of your lines, and your microphone never seems to be working when you need it to be.

Wednesday we take a much-needed break from the chaos of the rehearsal pace. Time to finish all of the homework for the entire week in one night and hope that it all works out. Move on from the fact that, even though you have told them a million times that it is tech week, the teachers still chose to give you a mound of homework. Try to get to bed before midnight and maybe, just maybe, you will be able to make it to Friday.

Thursday. Well, Thursday is make or break. This is it. Welcome to dress rehearsal. Get there early and be ready for pictures. Center yourself before the run-through and take a few deep breaths. When you walk on stage, make it count. This is your last time to drop a line, forget an entrance, break into an unplanned giggle, or miss a quick change. Get it all out. This is the last time you can do these scenes before people are standing in front of you. Then, before you know it, it’s over. Just like that.

This year I have had the privilege of playing the part of one of my favorite characters in musical theater, Maria in The Sound of Music. This part has challenged me, excited me, and scared the ever-living daylights out of me. Every time I open my mouth to sing those first notes of “The Sound of Music,” I get a little light headed. My head spins, and then all of a sudden it stops. I see the spotlight and hear the music and before I know it, I’m singing.

I wanted to explain tech week so everyone will realize what Mrs. Eubanks, Hannah Jane, the tech crew, stage hands, and cast of a Westminster show actually go through. The headaches, the joys, the laughs, the sobs–I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

New Home, Same God (Will Green)

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It’s crazy to me how God uses our environment to shape the people we become.

Birmingham has been my home ever since I was born at Brookwood Hospital in 1999. For most of my early childhood, my family lived in Helena near those huge, blue water tank things off I-65. The only memory I really have during that time of life was that Santa himself would ride down my street on a fire truck, which was the coolest thing ever. When I was about four or five years old, my family relocated to Meadowbrook on the opposite side of town to be closer to my dad’s job and our school (Oak Mountain Classical, at the time). At Christmas I was pretty bummed to learn that Santa was too busy in Helena to come to Meadowbrook as well. However, it was in Meadowbrook that I met one of my best friends, Weston Padgett. Because we lived in the same neighborhood, we became very close and would anxiously sit in the gym at school each day hoping to hear 19 and 33 called at the same time, which meant that we were hanging out after school. Years later, God brought the Blythe family to Birmingham as well. Brayden Blythe and I became close friends partly because we were in church together and also because he lived very close to my house. We could easily hang out and spent countless hours venturing through our neighborhood. Honestly, I could tell many other stories of guys who have influenced me, such as Pierce Moffett, Mason Greer, Wiley Boone, Parker Mixon, and the list could go on. It just amazes me how God has used Birmingham to shape me and to influence my family. However, the story is beginning to shift towards a new location as my dad has taken a job in Atlanta, Georgia. Next summer my family will move and start a new chapter to our story in a new city. Looking back, I see all that God has done here in Birmingham during the first years of my life. It makes me all the more excited to see what will unfold in Atlanta as he continues to make me the man he wants me to be.