Saturday, 31 December 2016

How do you reflect back on 2016 and set yourself up to start 2017 well?


Do you find yourself slipping into a reflective mode in this week between Christmas and New Year? I do. I booked time by myself to work through Amanda Vivier's New Year Vision book earlier this week as my brain was furiously trying to process through the year that has been and wanting to get organised and look forward to next year. It was feeling like a chaotic process. My mind and soul were desperately trying to make meaning of a year that turned out very different to what I had thought at the start. I had ideas and plans flooding through my brain but in a haphazard way that was not lending itself to pinning down goals or action steps. I was left feeling overwhelmed and at a loss as to where to begin. The dedicated time I set aside was just what I needed. I loved using Amanda's book at the end of last year to focus my scattered thoughts and it was what I needed again this year. 

One aspect of reflection that I have been chewing over this week is what impact my word for 2016 has had. Has "abide" been reflected in my priorities, my everyday life and the big moments too? It would be a lie to say that I have thought on my word every day. As I reflect back over the year, I do see subtle shifts though. Despite huge changes, steps of courage and potentially stressful events, I have sensed a deeper calm and centring than I have been aware of before. I recognise that this peace has come through consistent time with God and seeking his presence in my days. I am far from perfect. I don't pretend to have some miraculous connection with God every day. I am realising more and more how it is the daily obedience, the small shifts, the minor moments that add up to abiding. As I come to the end of 2016, I am not done with the concept of "abide". This will be a life-long pursuit. I was searching for my word for 2017. Would I continue with "abide" or was there something else that God was calling me to focus on?

During my retreat time away, a word came clear to me: "Faithful". I shouldn't have been surprised given that this word has come up repeatedly for me all year in the decision to take on the MOPS State Coordinator role. It is the word that has been on my heart to focus on during centring prayer times. 

I see two parts to this word: a firmer trust in God's faithfulness and being faithful myself to what God has called me to. I am looking forward to diving deeper into this concept this year but am sensing some hard lessons ahead. Growth is often uncomfortable and I choose to embrace that.

My time of retreat has had two overall outcomes. 
I feel ready to start a new year now. My mind and soul don't feel so chaotic. I have a sense of focus for the new year even if I don't have a list of resolutions. 
I have struggled to pull myself out of introvert mode. This is a less desirable outcome but recognising it has allowed me to have grace for myself and my family. Immersing myself in reflection and deep processing is a valuable time but can be hard to shut off for this introvert. I have had to remind myself that other people, especially my daughter and husband, are not intruding or confronting. I am withdrawing. It has taken some effort to stop a spiral down into self-absorption and engage with those around me. This tells me that my soul needs more times of retreat and reflection. The time I have taken for myself has often been more in distraction mode than processing mode. A change to consider for next year.

It may be the last day of 2016, but it is not too late to end this year well and begin the new year in a better headspace. It won't even be too late at the end of next week. Make some reflection time a priority. If you are like me, that will be a retreat by yourself to work through some questions. Maybe you are more of an external processor who needs to book some time with a trusted friend to work things through. Maybe you need to journal, paint, vision board or find a word. Whatever it looks like for you, I encourage you to make it a priority to start your year well.

What have been your reflections on 2016? Do you have a word for 2017? I'd love to hear from you.




Saturday, 17 December 2016

Reflections on "now" (a Five Minute Friday post)



Does anyone else find that now is the hardest time to be in? My mind easily lives in the future or past but I struggle to be fully present in this moment. I long for distraction or get caught up in to dos. My daughter is able to immerse herself fully in the moment often. It may not be the now that I want her to be immersed in, such as reading rather than getting dressed . Often it is in the moments of celebration or joy hidden in the mundane. She invites me in to these moments but so often I allow now to be swallowed up by the worries of the future. What is it that feeds my soul now in this moment? What is it that will impact the now but have weighty benefit in the future? Where am I drawing my expectations of the now from? I have always set impossible standards for myself. I have moderated these somewhat but still have lingering voices that want me to measure up to some elusive target. It steals the joy and peace from now. Right now is a season that can be busy and fraught with stress. I give in to that at times but am aiming to change that in my day to day moments. I want to see the glorious in the mundane. I want to treasure the now I have.

This post was inspired by the prompt word from the last Five Minute Friday of 2016. You can read what others made of this word here.

It's not too late to get this free mini-devotional. Only 3 devotions to fit in before Christmas! Click on the image to sign up to receive this.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

It's 10 days until Christmas but it's not too late

Christmas is rushing towards us at a relentless pace. Do you feel calm and organised or are your stress levels reaching a fever pitch? As much as I have had some very stressful moments in this Advent season, I have noticed the difference from spending time in reflection and soul-breathing through the Advent devotional I am using. For me, this has been a continuation of a daily habit and so easier to fit in each day. I know that a daily time can seem completely overwhelming at the best of times, let alone in the busy season leading up to Christmas. 

My heart is to encourage you in this season, as I have been encouraged. Whether you are able to spend 5 minutes a day or even only every few days, you can experience that peace and lightness for your soul. I want to give you the opportunity to engage in that reflection time for yourself without having to go looking or be overwhelmed. I have written a mini Advent devotional exclusively for my readers. It only has 3 entries making it an achievable goal before Christmas. 

Click on the image below to sign up to receive this mini-devotional for free. May your heart be encouraged and filled with peace as you carve out those moments before Christmas.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

What do I crave? (A Five Minute Friday post)



What is it that I crave? I have come to the conclusion that different parts of me crave different and often opposite things. My mind in this season simultaneously craves mindless distraction and stimulation. My soul craves connection, restoration, spiritual direction. My body craves sleep and coffee. My fingers seem to crave a device to fidget with. 
Of all of these cravings, what should I give in to? What do I indulge? Those are often not answers I want to look at too closely. Cravings can be indicative of internal processes. I'm told certain food cravings can indicate mineral or nutrient deficiencies. Craving mindless distraction and rest is a warning sign of too much intensity and the need for a break. And yet indulging every craving is detrimental to my health, physical, mental and emotional. I need to spend more time reflecting on what these cravings are telling me and how I can meet that need in ways that will give long term gain rather than only short term relief. 
The end of term is in sight. Many things in my life start to wind down now. Christmas brings a kind of busyness but not the intensity I have in other seasons. It's time to indulge the right cravings.



This post was written for the Five Minute Friday link up, where a community of writers take the prompt word (crave this week) and write unedited for five minutes flat and share our thoughts with each other. Check out the other contributions here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

What I learned this Spring


Today is the first day of summer, the first day of many of our Advent activities, the first day of the last month of the year. In the midst of looking forward to the Christmas season, I want to take some time to stop and reflect back on the season that is ending. I am increasingly thinking of my life in terms of seasons, both in terms of weather and seasons of what God is calling me to do. 
Here is what I learned this spring:

  • Momentum only lasts if you keep it up! I am able to achieve a whole month of posts, establish great momentum in my writing and lose it just as quickly. To say I loved writing in the Write 31 Days challenge would not quite be accurate but it did draw on a deep calling within me and that is a good feeling. I believe in what I wrote about and I am in the process of turning that series into a book. Finding the motivation to write has been so difficult since then, though. I find myself writing in fits and starts. This has made sense in this season as writing has not been a high priority. We will see what the next season brings for my writing.

  • I have far more good ideas in my head than I can act on! My to-do list each day vacillates from completely ridiculous in its expectations to almost empty. I have so many ideas and thoughts throughout the day that never come to fruition both from busyness at times and plain forgetfulness and can't-be-botherdness at others. I have to learn how to sift through them more realistically and prioritise more. The lure of easy distractions can be too great at times.

  • I'm going to be a calisthenics mum. My five-year-old daughter was asking to do dance and gymnastics classes. Calisthenics was a great option for including both. She did a four-week trial this term before deciding that she loves it and wants to continue next year. Time will tell if she sticks with it for the long-term, but for now, I will be a calisthenics mum. 

  • Transitioning to a new church campus requires more grieving than anticipated. Our church launched its new campus recently. Most of my friends and my daughter's friends remained at the existing campus. I am struggling to adjust far more than I thought. I anticipated being more excited but right now, I mostly feel sad and not at home yet. I am so glad that we have this campus to impact the community and know I will get to a place of belonging. For now, I am giving myself space and time to grieve and adjust.

  • Leadership sets a fire to my heart. Stepping into a new level of leadership has drawn out a passion for leadership learning in me. I am thriving on learning new things and am passionate about communicating that to other leaders. I feel a tug to call out leadership in others, especially those who don't see it in themselves, just as others have done for me.
This list was deeper than I intended when I first started writing. It is indicative of the season I have come through. Some seasons are light and fluffy. Others are gritty and rough. I will embrace them all as they come.

(If you are still looking for a way to celebrate Advent with your kids, it isn't too late to take advantage of this exclusive discount for Truth in the Tinsel and include a few activities in the coming weeks. Find out more here.)

This post is linking up with Emily P. Freeman

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Christmas is coming! Free gifts for you to help get ready


When you read the words "Christmas is coming!", did you feel a bubble of excitement or stress or maybe a bit of both? If I think about the gifts that need to be bought and the tasks that need to be completed by then, I start to feel overwhelmed. When I think of Advent, though, I am re-energised. It will soon be time to start the December celebrations and focusing in on the meaning of Christmas for myself and for my daughter. If you have been around my writing for a year or more, you will know that Advent holds a special place in my heart. This year, I am realising that what I choose to do during this season forms a part of how I lead myself and how I lead my daughter. 

Making intentional choices requires some planning and organisation in this busy season. Once again this year, I've created a free planner for you to use in planning out Advent activities. I have set out two columns for each day: one for the activities for my daughter and as a family and one for the focus I will be taking for that day personally. You could also use it as one for the activity and the other for the resources you might need. I used this planner last year and loved how it helped me to keep on track with my heart's desire to cut through the busyness and commercialism of the season. 

The other resource that has become central to the Advent focus with my daughter is the Truth in the Tinsel ebook. Last year was the first year we did the activities daily and we LOVED it. I also loved the printable ornaments which made this achievable. (You can have a look at our Advent activities from last year here)

For the first time, I am able to offer you an exclusive discount code for you to purchase the Truth in the Tinsel ebook for yourself and your family. I am so excited to share this with you. You can sign up below to receive both the Advent planner and the discount code by clicking on the image.




Friday, 11 November 2016

Common thread: Five Minute Friday

Have you ever experienced that phenomena where every day a common thread seems to run through the messages that you get? I have been experiencing this for the past few weeks. Almost everyday, through podcasts, sermons, social media images, a candle made for me by a friend, I have found the verses from Matthew 11:28-30. The message of resting in God and learning the unforced rhythms of grace has been a resounding boom. It has seemed strange for this to be the common thread of late. This is an area that God has been dealing with me about for years and I feel that I am in a good place in many ways. I carve out time for myself, explore the ways I am most restored in rest and have been spending more time in deeper relationship with God learning to draw strength from Him not rely on myself. And yet, here I am with the verses brought to my attention in a hundred little ways. It makes me nervous in a way as it feels like I am being reminded of this in preparation for challenges to come. It makes sense in many ways as I take on the full role of MOPS State Coordinator and the added responsibilities of this. I pray that these reminders will force the lesson deep within me for those days when I need it most.



This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday on the prompt word "common". The challenge is to write unedited for five minutes on the prompt and join the community of writers doing this each week. 

Friday, 4 November 2016

Journey- Five Minute Friday



This post is written as part of Five Minute Friday, where writers take a prompt word and write for five minutes without editing. After an intense writing stint in October. This is just what I need to get back into writing for November. 

When I saw the prompt word for today, I smiled. "Journey" My week started with a post about the continuing journey I am on in my leadership and writing and it will end with a fast paced reflection of that journey. I have spent the past two days at the Global Leadership Summit here in Perth. I am filled to overflowing with inspiration, ideas and plans. I have so much to digest, chew over, discuss and implement that it will take weeks to work it all through. I have come away with a renewed sense of the life long journey that leadership requires. If I am ever arrogant enough to think I have this all figured out, I pray that I will encounter new ideas and thinking to shake me out of that. 
I was blessed to have my journey intersect with an old friend at the summit too. We were housemates at uni and don't get to see much of each other these days. I was very aware of how far we have both come in our journeys of leadership and life. Despite the times apart and the infrequency of contact, the bond is still there and the beautiful gift of encouragement she has is still flourishing. I love those times that God brings of unexpected connection to speak into my journey right when I need it.

STOP




Monday, 31 October 2016

The journey continues: Where to from here



We have reached the end of this series but the journey of stepping up in leadership is an ongoing one. I never want to get to the place where I think I know everything and get too comfortable. I want to be a life long learner, especially when it comes to my leadership. I hope that you have the same idea.

It was my intention for this series to encourage and inspire other leaders walking this journey. I also wanted those who don't see themselves as leaders to recognise the influence and abilities that they have already. Through my experiences and reflections, I want to empower leaders. 

I knew from previous years what a challenge a daily series can be. It has grown and stretched me. It has forced me to take long looks at myself and evaluate areas of my leadership honestly. It has helped me to identify areas where growth and learning is needed. I now get to apply what I have learned as I take on my new role.

This series has had the added benefit of giving me renewed momentum in my writing and clarifying the direction I want to take. This blog has always been a vague idea for me. Now I know where my heart beat is: Encouraging others in leading themselves, leading their families and leading others. Over the next few months, I want to focus my writing to fit with this heart beat and make changes on the blog to reflect this. I would love for you to join me in this.

For the past two years, reaching the end of Write 31 Days has left me with somewhat of an anticlimax. This year, I have a project. Writing daily limits the depth that I can go in my writing. The feedback I have had from this series makes it clear to me that there is a need for these words. I will be turning this series into an ebook. I am looking forward to expanding on the reflections and ideas to produce a resource that can reach many more on their leadership journey. If you want to keep in touch with this project, subscribe below and you will be among the first to know when it is available.

What I am most interested in now, is how I can help you. What do you struggle with in your leadership journey? Where do you need the most encouragement? I would love to hear from you.

And now, I celebrate completing this challenge!

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon. 


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sunday Scripture: Psalm 91:1-4


These verses have long been among my favourites. They combine the messages of abiding, rest and feathers that God has been talking to me about over the past few years. I am learning more and more that my leadership ability is going to be directly proportional to how much I am living in Christ. These verses feel like a wrap-around blanket of peace. 

Feathers have so much significance to me. You can read about that here. I pray that you will be able to experience for yourself the shelter of His wings in your own journey.

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon

Saturday, 29 October 2016

My go to leadership resources


We live in an age where we have an abundance of access to books, articles, videos, podcasts, blogs and anything else the internet has to offer. It can be overwhelming to say the least. There is much that is available for free but a huge amount that requires an investment of funds too. My budget doesn't always allow for spending on books or DVDs or courses so I have had to tap into what is available.

  • Podcasts: free resources don't come much better than podcasts. I love that I can be continuing with the tasks of my day while being inspired, taught and encouraged in my leadership journey. There are many out there. My current favourites are the Bold and Courageous Leader podcast from Rhonda Peterson and the Leadership University podcast from Dr Henry Cloud. I love that they bring a Biblical perspective to leadership.
  • Video teaching: I love watching great leaders teach. YouTube always has lots of options but may not have full videos (or have them there illegally). I have had access to RightNow Media through a previous organisation (not available to individuals) and was blown away by how much there is on offer. Several internet sources have video teaching available for purchase and of course, book stores would too.
  • Books: I haven't read many leadership specific books. I often turn to audiobooks and Kindle versions to reduce costs and be able to listen while going about my day. There have been many that have inspired me of late:


The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Unqualified by Steven Furtick

  • Conferences: I am attending the Global Leadership Summit conference here in Perth next week. I have seen segments of previous years but have never attended a full conference. I am looking forward to expanding my skills and being inspired.
  • Mentors and those around me: possibly even more beneficial than all of these other resources are the people in my life who are further along the journey of leadership than I am and can speak into my own journey. My team and friends around me are also key in encouraging, inspiring, correcting and growing me. 
As my journey of stepping up in leadership continues, I am eager to keep learning and growing. I would love to hear about your favourite resources.



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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon. 





Friday, 28 October 2016

Giving up on long term planning


It may seem odd to end a week where I have reflected on setting a vision and communicating that vision with a post about giving up on long-term planning. Allow me to explain. For the past few years, every long-term plan I have made, every idea for the future I have had has been blown out of the water. My life today is far different from what I thought it would be. This may sound negative, but it is quite the opposite. I have experienced time and again that the plans that God brings about in my life may be challenging but are far more beneficial than anything I come up with. 

I am learning more and more that I try to control my anxiety by making plans. If my husband is running late and I start feeling flickers of anxiety about his safety, my mind defaults to planning for how I would cope without him, who I would call first if a policeman showed up on my doorstep, how I would go about paying for a funeral. All attempts to feel in control. I am realising that it comes down to a lack of trust. 

It is this lack of trust that I am working on. Giving up on long-term planning is not a matter of throwing my hands up in defeat but a conscious opening of my hands to let go. As I draw closer in my relationship with God, I trust Him more. I am able to trust that the path He has me on is for my good and for His purposes. I am learning to be content with knowing just the next step in front of me. I continue to seek out the seasons He has on the way for me, as I talked about in Discovering vision for where I lead

How does this relate to my leadership journey? Well, none of the leadership steps I have taken has been planned by me. Each has taken me by surprise in many ways. I have no idea how long I will be in this role and what will come after it. Amazingly for me, I am at peace with that. My default (that still tries to rear up at times) is to spend time, mental and emotional energy working out many different scenarios and possibilities. That achieves nothing but a distraction from the present. I want to be fully present in my life today, investing that time and energy into my team, my responsibilities and my leadership skills, and of course, my family first and foremost.

Giving up on long-term planning is necessary for my leadership to allow me to walk in trust and be flexible. Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe for you, long-term planning is not a distraction but a skill that you need to work on. We are each unique in what we need to let go of and what we need to pursue.

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon. 





Thursday, 27 October 2016

Thankful Thursday


It seems unbelievable that we are at the last Thankful Thursday for October. This month has stretched me and felt full without being overwhelming. I am thankful for that. It has had the potential to be stressful and crush me with its weight. The busyness has meant that I am neglecting to notice the good in my every day, though. I sat to write my list for this week and have had to really think to come up with a specific rather than generic gratitude list. Maybe your week has been similar in its fullness. Have you stopped to search out the good in your past week?

  • I am frequently in awe watching my daughter learn and develop. I took her to a park to ride her bike and she astounded me with her progress in such a short time. The bike is still a little big for her and yet she is riding so proficiently (with some wobbles, of course). She is growing before my very eyes. I get teary thinking of how quickly she is growing up.
  • My gorgeous nephew had a birthday on the weekend. I love spending time with my family celebrating. My daughter loved exploring a new park. I am thankful for family. I am thankful that I live in a country that values nature and creative play spaces for children.




  • This time of year brings Operation Christmas Child packing. I have loved seeing my daughter understand more each year about what we are doing. She loves choosing presents to put in the box and send to children who don't have the same privileges that she does. I love her heart for wanting to bless them. It is also a highlight of my teaching year. I always leave class budget to take my students shopping to fill a box. I love seeing them getting more and more involved in choosing what they will buy and discussing the benefits of different choices. These are students who struggle being in shopping centres, who may have difficulty interacting with their classmates, who face considerable challenges in their own lives. What a privilege to get to give them the opportunity to bless others and grow a little themselves in the process.
  

  • As much as I have loved writing this series, I am also thankful that it drawing to a close. Posting daily is a challenge. I have learned so much and have fresh vision for my writing moving forward. More on that on the last day of October!
I love hearing what you are thankful for through the comments or linking up your own posts. I encourage you to stop and take stock of your week. Notice the good.





An InLinkz Link-up

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon. 


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Communicating the vision to others



In yesterday's post, I reflected on the process of discovering a vision for the area that you lead in. Communicating that vision in a way that others can grasp and catch is the next part of the process. I don't have much in the way of experience with this. Over the coming weekend, I will be sharing with my team. My hope is that the passion I feel for this vision will transmit in my words. I am trusting that God will be preparing hearts and ignite the vision within them as He has in me. This process is made easier when I know that the team is already passionate about what we do.

Clarity in my own mind is needed to communicate the vision clearly. I have researched definitions, sought the right words and written down notes on what I want to say. I am feeling confident in being able to bring an understanding of what God has laid on my heart. I have the "umbrella" of the vision for our ministry for the next season.

There is much that still needs to be fleshed out as we begin to implement strategies and plan for events next year. My desire is for the team to be a large part of this process. This allows it to be more fully their vision. I need the whole team contributing their unique perspectives, abilities and vision to succeed in driving our ministry forward. I am looking forward to discussing plans and the vision with my team.

The challenge moving forward will be holding this vision myself and keeping it at the forefront of my team's focus over the whole year. Several leadership teachers use the term "vision leaks". It is human nature to get caught up in our everyday lives and lose that first passion and momentum. It will be my responsibility to keep coming back to what God has placed on my heart and reminding my team of this. Maybe I need to "write it on my walls" where I will see it in my daily life.

I would love to hear how you have communicated your vision to others under your leadership. How have you kept the vision fresh in your own and your team's minds?

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon. 



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Discovering vision for where I lead



When I first wrote this idea down on my plan for this series, I purposely left it until the last week. It made me nervous as I was doubting my ability to carry this part of my new role. In my mind, I have always just followed the vision set by others. I knew that I would be preparing to share a vision for next year with my team at the end of October and hoped that I would have something to write about at this point in the month. Thankfully, I was right!

Preparing for the team retreat, I spent time with God seeking His heart for MOPS in Western Australia. For me in Christian ministry, this is where vision begins. God came through. Fragments of thought from previous weeks and months consolidated. He dropped a phrase into my heart that encompassed what is needed in the coming season. I wouldn't have received this answer if I hadn't created the space to listen. If you are struggling to set a vision, maybe you need to do more listening and sitting in God's presence.

Through this process, I recognised that my fear about the responsibility of setting vision was unfounded. I have sought and set the vision for areas I've been responsible for and for my own life without attaching that label to it. I also realised that my part of the equation is making space for God to speak and using the observation and discernment skills he has already placed within me. He is the one who sets the vision. I need only hear it and communicate it.

As I reflected on times in the past where I have used this process without realising it, I had an epiphany that I frequently sense seasons that are ahead for myself or for areas I lead in. Vision is wrapped up in this concept of seasons for me. Vision will likely look differently to you. We are all wired in unique ways and connect with and hear from God in different ways as well.

Having a vision is one thing. Developing strategies to see this vision come to life is key. While I have some ideas on this, I recognise that I need my team around me to flesh this out. It is a vision for our ministry and it will be our strategies and combined ideas that will work this out. This requires me communicating that vision to them. The next post in this series will discuss communicating vision to others.

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This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You can read what others are contributing here



The Five Minute Friday book has released! Profits from this book go to two charities in South Africa. I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive. Get yours by clicking on the picture above or searching for it on Amazon.