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.

CSA

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.





A Woman of Dignity

4 06 2015

Tyas stirs in the darkness as a rooster crows outside her window. Rolling over slowly, she looks at the clock. 3am. Time to get up. She lifts the covers gently and climbs out of bed, being careful not to disturb Agus, still slumbering. He needs his rest. Exchanging her pyjamas for a t-shirt and knee length pants, she pads quietly across the tile floor and out the door.

She pauses in the stillness, allowing her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Several dogs bark good morning. “Ssss,” she whispers, giving them a friendly pat, then slips on her thongs and scuffs across the lawn to the kitchen.

“Good morning,” she says softly to the cook and receives a smiling, “Morning,” in response. The two women work side by side for the next two hours, cooking rice, preparing vegetables and frying more than forty eggs.

It’s the same routine every day.

Just before 5am, children and adults begin filing sleepily into the dining room, seating themselves on wooden benches at the long, wide table. Agus quietly takes his place, his head still heavy with the lethargy that his diabetes brings. He leads the group in prayer and Bible reading then offers some fatherly advice for the day. When he is done, several girls join Tyas in the kitchen to help serve breakfast. Each one reaches for her hand and lifts it to their cheek, a sign of affection and honour. Tyas’s eyes ooze with warmth.

Once breakfast is over, Tyas strides to her own small kitchen and brews rich coffee for her husband and other guests. She carries the tray of dainty cups carefully, serving each one and chatting briefly before ducking away once more.

I am one of those guests. I am intrigued by this woman with the sparkly smile who seems to work non-stop. I find her soon after, sitting on a wide step, preparing morning tea for our team. Her shiny, dark hair is tied back, up off her neck, to keep her cool in the growing humidity. There’s such simplicity and yet radiance about her. She sits relaxed, her knees bent up and bare feet resting on the warm concrete. The aroma of banana and coconut fills the air as her hands work deftly, smoothing white paste around banana pieces then wrapping them in large green leaves.

I tell Tyas (in my limited Indonesian) how much I enjoy the snacks she makes. Her face beams. “Hobby,” she whispers. My eyes shine as I return her gentle smile. We continue to chat and, with the help of a translator, I am blessed to gain a glimpse into this beautiful woman’s heart.

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Before coming to the orphanage, Tyas had a successful catering business in Java, built over more than a decade. Eight years ago, she put it aside and moved with her family to Bali, devoting her time to 42 ‘economic orphans’ – children whose parents could not afford to raise them. Ranging from 10-20 years old, these young people need a loving mother figure to nurture them through these years of rapid growth and change.

They could not have asked for better.

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On Sunday we dress up for church. Tyas glows in intricately embroidered, beautiful garments – a hint of the luxury she previously enjoyed. When we return to the orphanage, her finery is quickly exchanged for a t-shirt and pants, but her warm manner remains the same. That afternoon, she slogs a ball eagerly in a game akin to soft ball and zips across the grass to celebrate with her team, laughing with delight.

I study Tyas throughout our 10 days at the orphanage and carry her image home in my heart. Her smile comes to mind when I feel like grumbling about housework.

The words of an ancient king echo in my head:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity. She can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

Sounds about right.

I know Tyas gets tired. I know there are constant financial pressures and limited resources. Yet she carries herself with dignity and grace through each of her days, regardless of how she’s dressed or what is required of her. There is not a hint of self-pity for all she has sacrificed. Her smile and gentleness are freely shared with all.

I could brush off her behaviour as cultural. Yet she stands, even among Indonesians, as a light shining brightly. The peace that flows from her transcends culture. It comes from a deep place, an endless, inner well, a knowing Who she belongs to.

As I ponder, I realise with joy that the same dignity is mine for the embracing. Tyas does not base her value on how easy her life is or how beautiful her circumstances. She is anchored in the knowledge that the One who called her is faithful and steady. His love for her is unfading. She has dignity because He has bestowed it on her. Nothing can take that away.

So it is for each of us. Our worth does not depend on the perfection of ourselves or our situation. God says we are cherished. We are valued. Beyond measure. Regardless. No matter what our days may bring, His love offers us security and therefore dignity. The question is: will we embrace it?

“God (says), I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love and more love!”
Jeremiah 31:3 (MSG)

Sue Brown.





There’s a Difference Between Humility and Self-Deprecation. Just Sayin’

11 05 2015

My mum sent me a text last week. It made me feel twice my height and warmed me from the chest outwards. I guess I’m going to have to share it with you now… (Sorry mum, I know it was intended for my eyes only!)

“Hey Claire, I want to express how I see you as a beautiful, stunning, gorgeous woman with beautiful long flowing golden hair, such incredible blue sparkling eyes and milky skin – which are all your assets. Enjoy being you, as you are perfect the way you are!”

Gah! Did I mention it also made me a little teary?

A funny thing happened when I sat down to write this piece. I wanted to share the beautiful message my mum sent me, to show how wonderful she is, but there was a reticence to include those descriptions of how she sees me.

“Wouldn’t that be big-noting yourself?” the voice in my head said.

How are you at taking compliments?
Me? Rubbish.

Someone says, “I love your outfit!” and I’m reflexively muttering, “This old thing!” or “Pity about the coathanger!” or “Mmm, but your jacket is DE-vine!”

Defy and deflect.

But there’s a difference between humility and self-deprecation – one that makes it completely ok to not only accept praise, but to affirm our own strengths.

The tightrope between accepting our imperfection and knowing we are perfect just as we are.

When I take time to sit in God’s presence, read his word and pray – I am always left with a sense of how valuable I am, like he’s sent me a mum-style text to stop-up the fissures of my ever-eroding self-worth and body image.

He also reminds me that in order to love others, I must learn to love myself.

Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” and Matthew 22:39 says, “…love your neighbour as yourself.”

The benchmark is the value we assign ourselves.

Which brings me to this compelling question: Would I be better at loving if I loved myself?

In the Bible, love is a triptych. Love God, love others and love self. I believe that the truest, purest, most honourable kind of love is when those three strands are intertwined.

There’s a heartening YouTube clip getting around at the moment (it’s an ad for skincare, actually). On the front of a public building with high foot traffic, signs were affixed above its two entries saying ‘Average’ and ‘Beautiful’. Anyone who entered the building had to choose whether to enter the ‘Average’ door or the ‘Beautiful’ door.

Average or Beautiful? Watch the clip HERE.

The simple decision that people made on entry to the building revealed the state of their self worth. Predictably, most women walked through the ‘Average’ door, many without a second thought.

What I loved was watching the women who entered in pairs. One mother grabbed her daughter’s arm and steered her away from ‘Average’ and into ‘Beautiful’. Another pushed her wheelchair-bound friend through the ‘Beautiful’ door. Friends linked arms and owned the ‘Beautiful’ tag, marching triumphantly through.

88390566-0f5c-4f71-8555-218f4a793a10.format_jpeg.inline_yes

Cheesy? Maybe.

But it’s also incredibly empowering, because when we affirm the value and beauty in another, we inadvertently do the same to ourselves.

My mum’s amazing at this.

I’m sure many of you celebrated a mum or mum-figure yesterday, who has advocated for you, encouraged and built you up to be who you are today.

I’m taking cues from the likes of these! I want to be that kind of mother and friend.

Because what is more beautiful than affirming the beauty in another?


Borrowed from Claire van Ryn’s blog, Faith Like a Mushroom. First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 11, 2015.





Can You Teach Compassion?

23 02 2015

At Flourish last year I chose a sponsor child for my almost-four-year-old son. He’s from Mexico, has the grandiose name of Giovanni Gonzalez Velasquez and is the same age, which was strategic.

I want them to grow up together.

I want my privileged, white, Anglo, middle class boy to be aware that his lot is not the status quo. That just as he had no control over the fact he was born into a family rated in the top 10 per cent of the world’s wealth (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 2014), Giovanni had no control over the fact he was born into poverty.

I know. These are grand concepts for a toddler, but that’s the great thing about sponsoring a child – it’s a journey. Here are two boys who will learn about each other and themselves during that impressionable conduit to adulthood.

Giovanni

Giovanni’s photo is propped beside my son’s bed and we talk about him, explain the differences in culture as well as the similarities in interests, and we pray for him; for health, safety, provision, family and faith.

Master Nearly-Four dazzles us with his heartfelt pleas on Giovanni’s behalf.

“Please keep Giovanni safe and give him food and make him healthy and give him lots and lots of treats and lollies…”

As hubby and I hold his hand and let him prayer-ramble, we share gooey-eyed smiles at the sincerity of his requests.

Truth is, they are learnt prayers, the product of our own examples and instruction.

Which has led me to question: Can you teach compassion?

We were sitting at the dinner table with extended family recently, spinning the dream of spending time in a third-world country during hubby’s long service leave. We were waxing lyrical of the benefits to our offspring’s character development and hopes that such an experience would instill compassion in a relevant and tangible way.

Then someone said, “You can’t teach compassion to a child.”

We bounced the statement back and forth for a bit before the conversation moved elsewhere. But that proclamation stayed with me and hasn’t let up.

Can you teach compassion?

Various studies have shown that compassion is like a muscle. Yes, some of us are born with good muscle/compassion tone but those of us who weren’t so lucky can still improve with hard, dedicated exercise.

The word comes from the Latin ‘compati’ meaning to suffer with (com- “together” and pati “to suffer”) or to take pity.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Luke 6:31 reads as a compassion imperative, if rather brief. After all, isn’t that what compassion is: putting yourself in another’s shoes, feeling with them, suffering with them, laughing and crying with them?

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps it’s not so well known that the narrative belongs to Jesus, as detailed in Luke 10:30-35.

A man was robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of a road. The first two people who passed by ignored him and continued on their way. The third, a Samaritan, “took pity on him” and not only bandaged his wounds and helped him to safety, but paid for his accommodation and care.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus concluded.

The “expert in the law” who Jesus was telling the story to replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

Can you teach compassion? I think so. Jesus obviously thought so. Compassion, after all, is the language of community.

Claire.

Did you sponsor a child at Flourish last year too? Love to hear how it’s going, either in the comments below or on our Facebook page!
If you would like to sponsor a child, we can recommend Compassion Australia: www.compassion.com.au

compassion
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 23, 2015 and also on the Faith Like a Mushroom blog.



10959652_726672440765294_148939355798621411_nPssst! Don’t forget that the Flourish Early Bird Special registration fee of $45 per person runs out on February 28. We’re expecting record numbers this year, so be sure to sign up. Click HERE to register.

 





Is There a Thief in Your Home?

12 02 2015

I stood in our lounge, my eyes scanning the room, and let out a sigh. It was neatly furnished and comfortable but discontent filled my soul. “I wish we lived somewhere bigger,” I thought. “If only we could have nice things like other people do.”

We’d just returned from a week at a friend’s ‘shack’, a spacious, beautifully decorated retreat on the east coast. While we were in awe of their generosity and had been deeply refreshed by our time away, now we were home it felt like our cosy unit was shrinking before my eyes. “When will we ever have a nice home like other people?”I grumbled.

Immediately a phrase dropped into my mind: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It came with such clarity I knew it wasn’t my own thoughts. God had spoken. He could see there was a thief in my house.

9aabc38812620a2dde3541817c3f2a82I first heard those words twelve years ago, yet they continue to ring true. No matter which side of comparison we come out on, it steals from us. It leads either to pride and judgement or frustration and dissatisfaction. None of these equate with joy.

Comparison has tried to rob me many times through the years. In my late teens, I strove to be as slim as my long, lean friends – to the point of anorexia. When my children were little, I often battled inadequacy and despair as I watched ‘better’ mothers interact with their families. Even in the past week, discontent stealthily crept in as I watched lavish renovations on a popular reality TV show.

chibirdcompareComparison seems to fuel a restless agitation in me, an uncomfortable sense that all is not well. It tells me I am not enough; my life circumstances and achievements are not enough and unless I reach the standard I see before me, I cannot be happy. Many times it has sent me on determined, exhausting pursuits of an ideal which was unattainable.

In truth, seeking after fulfilment through earthly things is, as one wise man said, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Even when we grasp what we think we so desperately need, it’s as empty as a handful of breeze. It doesn’t contain life. It may bring temporary happiness, but before long, we’ve seen something else we want and off we go again.

We were made for more than this.

The only place I’ve found deep joy and lasting fulfilment is in connection with my Creator. He is the deep well that quenches my thirst. He is the lover of my soul, regardless of how I measure up by others’ standards. When I sit in His presence there’s an ‘ah’ that takes place – a deep sense that, in fact, all is well.

No amount of failure or inadequacy on my part can make Him reject me. He has dealt with all my shortcomings through the sacrifice of His perfect son, Jesus. Now I am not only accepted, but treasured – a beloved daughter of the Most High God.

That brings such security, freedom and contentment. I don’t have to perform or measure up any more. Those things I thought I needed to be happy suddenly fade into the background. I am released to live life open-handed, aware that I’ve been handed a bounty with more than enough to share. No longer is my joy being stolen, rather it’s overflowing. All is well.

“You will show me the path of life;

In your presence is fullness of joy;

At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16: 11 (NKJV).

 Sue Brown.





Flourish 2015 Speaker Announced

9 02 2015


If you’re not a social media nut (and frankly, I don’t blame you!) then you may have missed our most exciting latest news…

Flourish 2015 is locked in.

Saturday August 22 is the date.
Door of Hope Christian Church is the place.
Michelle Mitchell is the guest speaker.

This is a bit of a coup for us. We’re more than a little bit excited to have an awarded speaker of Michelle’s calibre lined up to impart some of her wisdom and experience on us all.

CSA
Please, head to her website and read her extensive CV or check out some of her material. Otherwise, here’s Michelle in a nutshell:

– Inspirational Speaker award, 2013 (Queensland)
– Author of ‘What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents’ as well as a series of five life skills programs being used in schools nationwide.
– Registered teacher.
– Founder of Youth Excel, a charity that delivers life skills education and mentoring programs to schools throughout Australia.
– Her work has featured on The Today Show, Today Tonight and Channel 10 Morning News as well as countless print media including The Age, The Courier Mail and Dolly Magazine.
– Lives in Brisbane with her husband and two teenaged children.

1797369_716494495040110_703048275_nImportantly, Michelle is a down-to-earth, energetic and passionate speaker who has a way of speaking on life issues so that the relevance extends from girls to grandmas. For this reason we’re expecting to break new ground and reach more women than ever this year – especially our younger girls and teenagers.

If you’re aged 13-103, this is for YOU.

We would be so grateful if you helped us spread the news. Tell your family. Invite your friends. Book your daughter/s in, your nieces, your grand-girls. Share with your work colleagues. We each have the very great privilege (& responsibility) of impacting their lives and leaving a lasting legacy.

Early Bird Registration Extended
We’ve extended our Flourish 2015 early bird registration until February 28. Until then, regos will be $45, so be sure to book in early and take advantage of this super duper price.

CLICK HERE to register.





Carpe Minutam – How To Seize The Moment

27 11 2014

I wonder if any of you smouldered with annoyance as you read my entry last month on ‘breathing time’.

“It’s easy for her to say,” you thought. “She doesn’t carry the workload I do or face the challenges I face.”

just-breatheMy life is less hectic now than it used to be, but I have been through some intense seasons. Eleven years of home schooling four children while carrying several other responsibilities reminded me, daily, how desperately I needed God’s help. It was those out-of-my-depth times that taught me how vital it was to breathe.

There are chapters in our lives when finding big chunks of time is near impossible. That’s when taking hold of the little moments is a more realistic aim. You’ve probably heard of ‘carpe diem’, which means ‘seize the day’. How about ‘carpe minutam’, a close translation of ‘seize the moment’? A moment is better than nothing and a lot can happen in those precious seconds.

I don’t profess to have everything figured out, but here are a few ways I’ve found helpful in seizing moments of stillness in the midst of hectic times:

  1. It sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to hold our breath when we’re pushed for time. Just stand still, take ten seconds to breathe deeply and appreciate the oxygen that’s available to you. It’ll help your brain function better too.
  2. Look out the window. When the walls seem like they’re closing in, gazing beyond them helps bring perspective.
  1. Venture outside. Stroll around the garden or go for a walk. Immersing ourselves in God’s vast creation reminds us that He is big enough for whatever challenges we’re facing.
  2.  Start a journal. Writing can help clarify our thoughts and fears. It’s also a useful means of recording our journey through life and how God speaks to us.
  3. Surround yourself with good fuel. When I was a busy mother of three littlies, I kept a Bible next to my breastfeeding chair, stuck favourite quotes on the walls and kept a stash of parenting mags in the toilet. Even a momentary glance often brought fresh hope and enthusiasm for my role.
  1. Carpe diem. Invest in a day away. Yes – a whole day; a rare treat that can bring deep refreshing. When I was single and worked full-time, I discovered the value of having an ‘adventure with God’ every few months. I’d grab my Bible and journal, jump in my car then drive somewhere I’d never been before. After a long walk through lush bushland or along a golden stretch of sand, I sat with my journal and wrote down any pressing needs or questions. The stillness and solitude quieted me so I could hear God’s gentle whisper.

My husband and I now take separate ‘retreat days’ when we can, with the year’s beginning a particular priority. We reflect on the previous 12 months then ask God for His heart for the year ahead. Everything gets written down and later shared with each other. Those notes become a great source of inspiration as the year unfolds, with all its twists and turns.

Whether for a fleeting interlude or a leisurely ramble, connecting with God is vital for us to function as the women He created us to be. Sometimes that breathing time can be like buried treasure – hard to get to in the midst of all the rubble. Just like treasure, though, the more we have to battle to reach it, the more precious it is when it’s in our grasp.

9622-ea_be still and know that I am God.png

(Psalm 46:10)

Sue Brown.








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