The Beauty of Ordinary

1 09 2015

I was recently unravelled by a chat with a couple of nine-year-olds.

My daughter’s class were bush dancing for their PE session. Their knees lifted high and their heads bobbed as they heel-toe, heel-toed back and forth in front of me. It looked like so much fun that I decided to join in (the school encourages parent involvement). Bouncing along beside them, I locked eyes with different ones and grinned as I copied their movements.

When the music ended, the PE leaders moved to the stereo to restart the song. The students clustered together, panting steadily.

I stepped close to a huddle of girls.
“Phew, that was hard work.”
I patted my stomach.
“Especially when you’ve just finished breakfast.”

One of the girls looked at me, wide-eyed.
“Have you only just eaten breakfast?”

My mind raced, clutching at a good excuse.
“I do that last. Today I finished eating on the way here while my son drove.”
That was fifteen minutes ago.
She looked at me blankly, seemingly shocked.

I make a habit of chatting to my daughter’s classmates each morning. Somehow I’d missed this one. Until today. Right at that moment she was forming her view of me. Probably not a good one.

“I’m not an early riser.”
I smiled apologetically.
“Do you get up early?”
She did.

My mind flitted back to some things I’d heard about their family lifestyle. This girl would have been up for hours. Breakfast, for her, was a distant memory. Unlike me.

Another girl – one I knew well – leaned forward, tilting her head while tiny furrows formed in her brow. I could almost hear the cogs turning as her deep blue eyes questioned me.
“So, do you brush your teeth before breakfast?”
I paused and took a deep breath.
“No, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet.”
I could almost hear their gasp.
“I’ll do them when I get home.”

My flustered thoughts were interrupted by another question from girl number one.
“Do you go out to work?”

I pictured the way I was dressed. Black track pants, joggers and an ugly red polar fleece – unattractive but warm. Perfect for a day at home. Unimpressive compared to a working mum’s stylish attire.

“No, I’m a writer.”
Well, technically that wasn’t true.
“I stay at home and do writing.”
My voice faded as I ran out of words.

The music began and I retreated from the group to watch. My mind was in a whirl, struggling with the desire to explain all the good things I did. All the ways I fit the ‘perfect mother’ mould.

Far out God, am I really that insecure?

It took a little while to shake off the sense of failure. I’m not like the mothers of those girls. I don’t get up and dress smartly for work. I’m not so efficient with the morning routine. Some days I don’t finish my breakfast till after everyone’s gone to school.

But I am loved.

One thing I’ve learnt in the past few years is that God’s love for me isn’t dependent on my performance. Because of His character, that love is faithful and steady. Unchanging. Regardless of my failings.

I’ve found that the more I face up to my frailty, the more I feel His boundless love.

Even better, that love lives in me. Because I’ve invited Him to flood my life, I carry His presence within me. I may be inadequate. He is more than enough. I may be ordinary. He is extraordinary.

God loves to do the unexpected. He puts treasure in jars of clay. Gives beauty for ashes; joy for mourning. Pours His overcoming strength into those who have nothing left.

Source: Homeschooling Against All Odds/

Source: Homeschooling Against All Odds/

I can identify with the clay jar – an ordinary, insignificant household item in Bible times – a bit chipped around the outside and able to be broken. It’s God’s constant, loving presence that gives me worth. I always have something to offer those around me. Even on the most ordinary days. My worth comes not from myself but from the treasure I carry. It seems the more cracks I let people see, the more His goodness is able to shine through.

When God is present, ordinary becomes something beautiful.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ”
2 Corinthians 4: 7, 16.

This post was written by Susan Brown, a frequent blogger here.
Please check out her own blog, The Resting Post, where you will find more of her encouraging, sunny and raw words of wisdom.

Salted Caramel Fudge – Here’s the Recipe!

29 08 2015

We hope you enjoyed Flourish last week! We had a ball and were so thrilled to see SO many women chatting, shopping, eating and getting their fill of inspiration – and fudge.

You asked for the recipe, well here it is.

If you weren’t at Flourish last Saturday, you missed seeing Masterchef contestant Amy Luttrell mix up some salted caramel fudge and then serve up some she “prepared earlier” – a piece for all 450 of us! She reeled off the recipe as she was doing her live demonstration but, if you’re anything like me, the important details of quantities and cooking time didn’t stick. Here’s the recipe – have fun!


Amy’s Salted Caramel Fudge


1 litre milk
500g brown sugar
1tbs butter
550g milk chocolate
Good pinch of salt


To make the milk caramel, combine the milk and sugar and reduce over a very low heat until thick and sticky (about 2 hours), then whisk in the butter. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of caramel.
Melt the chocolate, stir through the milk caramel, add the salt and pour into a silicone mould.

Set for about four hours before cutting into pieces.

Flourish… The True Sense of the Word.

17 08 2015

This post is brought to you by Flourish event director Amanda Towns. She’s taken time out of her frantic, Flourish-week schedule to pen a few thoughts especially for you. 

The word Flourish is beautiful, expressive and lush. It slips off my tongue with a vibrant playfulness each time I say it. When I think of the word it brings a spirited smile to my face; joyfulness and hope are active and alive in that very moment.

Flourish by definition means:

to be in a vigorous state
to thrive
 be in one’s prime, be at the height of fame, excellence or influence
to be successful, to prosper, to grow luxuriantly

To flourish, in the true sense of the word, sounds exhilarating!

Who doesn’t want to thrive, be in one’s prime, be at the height of excellence and influence, be successful and prosper? I certainly do. And I’d hazard a guess that you do too.

But can one truly flourish in life? Well…I believe so.

Flourishing and (this year’s theme) ‘living beyond yourself’ are not dissimilar. Neither can be achieved by being self-focused or self-absorbed. Neither can be achieved alone. But both come from a deep, content and secure heart and have the unique capacity to leave a lasting legacy.

To truly flourish is to be fully whole; mind, body and spirit. A legacy left to me from my parents, and their parents before them are these words:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

They are wise words that have made a difference in my life. Well, to be honest, they should have made a difference years before they actually did, but now I finally get it! (It’s surprising what you find when you read the Bible!)

I can flourish in spite of my hurts, my doubts and my struggles. In fact it’s because of those things that I am truly flourishing in life now. I can focus on ‘living beyond myself’ despite my personal challenges because I no longer look at life through a selfish, self-centred lens, rather focussing my life on supporting others and cheering them on.

I’ve learnt what it means to guard my heart and, as Proverbs puts it, everything I do flows from that place.

Flourish – the event (like the word) is ever so beautiful, expressive and lush. It is vibrant and playful. It is highly spirited and brings hundreds of delicious smiles to hundreds of delightful faces. It’s jam-packed with joy and it offers renewed and genuine hope to many who live with a slice of hopelessness (and that comes in all shapes and sizes and sadly can overshadow our life without invitation).

My heart and passion is to encourage women to flourish – in the true sense of the word. It may sound corny to you, but that’s what makes me thrive and prosper and ultimately what makes me flourish in life. It’s what keeps me energised, keeps me striving forward and (for a non-crier) it’s what brings those sparkling droplets of emotion to the surface and smudges my (budget priced!) mascara.

I encourage you to ask yourself what it would take to flourish in your own everyday life. To live a life that’s not only full, but fulfilling, a life defined by some of those words I mentioned before: beautiful, expressive, lush.

Flourish – the event – is a decision to attend one day.

To flourish – in the true sense of the word – is a daily decision.

Oh, LOOK! Amanda was in The Examiner newspaper today – along with Flourish creative director Ruth Morrison, and our special guest and recent Masterchef contestant Amy Luttrell. Keep an eye on Facebook for more info about Amy’s involvement at Flourish this year…

Oh, LOOK! Amanda was in The Examiner newspaper today - along with Flourish creative director Ruth Morrison, and our special guest and recent Masterchef contestant Amy Luttrell.

5FIVE days to go!

Flourish registration is still open – in fact, registrations will be open right up to Flourish day, this Saturday, August 22.

Tickets are $65 ($45 for young women, aged 13-17, and students).
The program runs from 9:45am-4.30pm and lunch is included.
The Flourish Handmade Market opens from 8am and is open again at lunch break (12:30pm).

Click HERE to register online or contact Door of Hope Christian Church: or (03) 6344 8450.

Flourish Handmade Market

8 08 2015
We know how much you love to SHOP and it’s getting to the point where Flourish wouldn’t be Flourish without the Flourish Handmade Market. Yup. It’s on again! From 8am on Flourish Day (Saturday, August 22), the venue foyer will be humming with the happy sounds of women shopping.

TWENTY-SIX stalls are booked in this year, and they include:
(click on their links for more info at their website/facebook page)

Dotti’s Bibs and Pieces; Bag’s, Buttons and Beads; A Bead Moment -(earrings and necklaces from polymer clay beads); Nic’s Nac’s (bags,quilts, childrens rugs and mobiles); Tassie Dazzle (jewellery); Bagonia (bags); Tradigital with Liz (cards, origami and paper craft);


Willow Tree Lane (jewellery); Biara Candles (100% Hand-poured soy wax candles, melts and travel tins); Elila’s Jewellery and CardsExpressions Handmade; Robin C Designs (necklaces made from pearls, precious semi-precious stones, handmade glass beads, Tasmanian wood and resin);


Tassie Cozy KidzSunbrite Vintage; LJ CreationsMoon GirlLarlu Designs; Little Grey Creations; LoveEllie HandmadeNarley CreationsBoos Crafts (handmade home decor); Lovedup; The Happy Nest; Babushkas Bazar (wool, silk and lined scarves. Hats, vests and Jewellery, all handmade).

Willow Tree Lane

Willow Tree Lane

Larlu Designs

Larlu Designs

We will also have one very special stall: Life Without Barriers.

You will be able to buy ceramics including garden mushrooms, bracelets and necklaces as well as butterfly, fish and seahorse ceramic wall hangings.

But importantly, you can learn about this not-for-profit organisation supporting communities. One of its key focus areas is Out of Home Care Services and Life Without Barriers recruits, trains and supports foster carers to support children and young people who are unable to live with their own families. There are not enough foster carers to support the children in need, and Life Without Barriers is always looking for ways to spread the message about becoming a foster carer.

Something to think about… if this amazing work tugs at your heart strings, make sure you find their stall at Flourish or look them up online – HERE!

Life Without Barriers

Life Without Barriers

Jess - flowers

Have You Braved the Outdoors Lately?

25 07 2015

It’s mid-July, the deepest, darkest part of winter – the time of year when sensible people stay tucked up inside by the fire. Yet one unusually warm day last week the sun streamed through my window and beckoned me outside.

The moment I opened the door, the lilting warble of magpies filled my ears. I smiled and breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet fragrance of wattle blooms. I wandered around the yard, pausing in one place to watch the birds flirt and swoop, bending over in another to study the silent garden beds. Clusters of pale green spikes gave promise of daffodils and bluebells yet to come. Tiny pink buds formed little bumps along the stems of formerly naked trees.

All around me were signs of new life.

July is the coldest winter month, the one we often view as something to endure on our way to warmer weather. We bustle through the mall with hunched shoulders and pinched faces, darting from one toasty shop to the next, barely stopping to greet familiar friends in our hurry to get out of the cold. We battle coughs and colds and long for the carefree vitality we associate with summer. Yet in the midst of the chills and discomforts of our frigid days God gently whispers to us through His creation:

“Winter will not last forever. Spring is coming.”


Some of the bulbs in my garden promising colour and beauty very soon!

Our family has had some difficult ‘winters’ in the last couple of years – long bouts of whooping cough, a sudden brush with death and slow recovery, cancer diagnosis for a precious grandpa followed by his rapid decline and passing.

The winters of our lives can feel terribly harsh. Unbearable. Like stark trees in the garden, we feel stripped back to bare bones. Completely void of life. We drag ourselves through each day, weighed down by the heaviness of the struggle, often convinced that it will never end.

Yet it will.

Winter, no matter how harsh, does not last forever. Spring will come. The darkness and heartache will pass and, while some things in our lives may have permanently changed, we will experience beauty and joy again.

Spring will surely come.

But here’s an important thought to ponder: The health and splendour of our spring plants is dependent on how well-rooted they were through the winter months. It’s in winter, when everything appears lifeless, that the plant is preparing for spring, drawing deeply from nourishment in the soil and forming its next season’s shoots.

We may not see much happening on the outside but there is a whole lot going on under the surface.

So it is with us. We can choose in our wintertime to put our roots down deep and draw from the living source. Or we can battle it out alone and just barely survive to emerge in the spring.

I’m reminded of a favourite passage in Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

Whose confidence is in Him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

That sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

Its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

And never fails to bear fruit.”

I want to live a life that, like spring blooms, can bring joy and beauty to others. How about you?

For that to happen, we need to stay connected with our Maker, through every season.

Only then can we be a channel of His life and hope.

By Sue Brown.

Let’s Meet a Month From Now!

23 07 2015

It’s the 23rd of July today – which means it’s less than one month until we meet under the Flourish banner for a day of encouragement, refreshing and feminine chit-chat.

It also means the Flourish Team is extremely busy behind the scenes working on all the details to make your experience extra special. We’re excited. You won’t be disappointed!

Thirdly, it means you have a window of opportunity right now to be thinking who you would like to gather together to share the Flourish treasure with. Don’t keep it to yourself!

You know who I’m talking about – that friend at work, that neighbour, your daughter, your sister, the lady who sells you Tupperware, the chick who makes your coffee each morning… they deserve a piece of Flourish, don’t you think?

Please, help us to spread the word so that more and more women are touched by the Flourish experience and what this year’s speaker, Michelle Mitchell, has prepared to speak into our varied life situations.


Tickets are $55 until July 30 and $45 for young women, aged 13-17. The program runs from 9:45am-4.30pm and lunch is included. The Flourish Handmade Market opens from 8am and is open again at lunch break (12:30pm).
Click HERE to register online or contact Door of Hope Christian Church: or (03) 6344 8450.

Something You Should Know About Michelle Mitchell

18 06 2015

When she’s not working her bum off writing, speaking, teaching or mentoring, you might find Michelle Mitchell scooting around her Brisbane home, picking up her teenage sons’ socks and jocks! The self-professed homebody is this year’s Flourish keynote speaker and we’re convinced you’re going to be inspired and challenged by what she has to share.

She’s energetic. She’s down-to-earth. She’s relevant. She’s honest. And her work in establishing the Youth Excel charity in 2000 to equip young people with invaluable life skills has been extremely successful while also feeding her passion for helping teens transition into adulthood.


We caught up with Michelle this week and drilled her with some questions to help you get to know her better before you meet her at Flourish on August 22…

Who are you, in a nutshell?

I am the wife and mother of two spunky boys (16 and 14 years old) who keep me busy cooking and picking up socks and jocks.  My work life:  I am an advocate for all things that impact young people.  I love to write, speak and create new projects that will make a difference in other people’s lives. I have a background in teaching, and started Youth Excel 15 years ago. Today Youth Excel services about 300 families each week with a range of programs and services.  I love new ideas, challenges, out-of-the-box thinking and people who have a go.

Michelle with husband Doc and sons Ben and Matt.

Michelle with her lovely family: husband Doc and sons Ben and Matt.

What’s the most vivid memory you have of your childhood?  

McDonalds. They used to have this wide yellow slide, and ice cream sundaes were very exciting! 

What do you do to unwind?

I like to put my hair in a bun, take my make-up off and stay home. I love nothing more than being at home.

What are you reading?  

The Message Bible.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl

Tea or coffee?

I actually don’t drink coffee or tea! Water is really boring isn’t it?!

Favourite television show/movie?

Masterchef because my youngest likes watching it with me.

You are stranded on a desert island with the opportunity to take one thing with you – what would it be? (No, that doesn’t include your husband or a boat-builder)

Am I allowed my phone? I can’t live without that thing.

Most inspiring person you’ve met?

Sheryl Salmon has worked with me for about 12 years. She does my accounts and goes about giving and supporting often without a lot of praise or attention.  Her heart inspires me.  It isn’t what someone does but who they are that really inspires me.

1797369_716494495040110_703048275_nWhat’s life taught you lately? 

That people are tougher than they know they are and that anything is possible when like-minded people come together.

What are you passionate about?

The next generation…love them.

What do you hope people take away from what you share at Flourish this year?

That you can make an incredible difference in the lives of others simply by being your best self. Know who you are, what you are meant to do and who you are doing it for.

Register for this year’s Flourish women’s event, August 22, today! CLICK HERE to register online, or call the Door of Hope reception on (03) 6344 8450.


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