Four ways to make a difference

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Pic by my late friend Andy Carrie (someone who helped inspire my vision).

 2017 is the year to shine, a year for taking no prisoners.  This is your year!

We are notoriously accustomed to entering January charged up and rearing to go.  Our resolutions and goals are noted and our dreams are alive – we intend to change but our plans often remain just that, good plans.  Our lack of “know how”, our feelings of inadequacy or our habits of comparing ourselves to others slowly start to erode our good intentions.  We are left with a sense of disillusionment when we look back, suddenly aware that four months have passed and we’ve become caught in the web of busyness, not having actually achieved much at all.

As a working mom of three little children (with one that still wakes up through the night to be breastfed. Don’t worry, it will stop soon, just haven’t had the strength to wean her!) this feeling is all too familiar.  But this year it is going to be different.

This year I am stirred with not only a dream but a vision.  Inspiring author, Andy Stanley, says: “Dreamers dream about things being different.  Visionaries envision themselves making a difference.” 

This statement for me was a catalyst for change.

The light was turned on when I realised the significance of a vision. The difference between who you are and what you want to be, is what you do, and a vision guides that “what you do”.  What you do to make a difference to not only your own life but the lives of those around you, is the very essence of what will put you in the place you dream of being. My mom has a beautiful saying that she truly lives by – she says “there is nothing more therapeutic to the human soul than to do something for someone else.” (Quote by Nadine Wright)

  1. Find out what dissatisfies you the most. Let this stir you from deep within.

I believe that a vision comes from a place of angst.  It may be injustice, people with unrealised potential, inequality, poor service in your industry, bad creative content, stupid ideas or over-complicated processes.  Whatever it is that dissatisfies you the most – herein lies the key to the vision that will cause you to rise up.

  1. Have a strategy, a detailed plan and a set of goals.

I believe that the recipe to achieving your vision is a combination of a clear strategy (which is a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim), great faith, great connections and a whole lot of passionate prayer.  If you don’t pray, maybe you should try!  Wonderful things always happen when I pray detailed and specific prayers.

  1. Fan your flame of passion

When one is fuelled by passion and driven by a clearly defined strategy one can walk confident, unperturbed by what others around might say.  Passion fuels perseverance, courage and character and these qualities are what you will need when life throws curve balls.

How does one stir up passion?

Surround yourself with passionate people.  Read passionate books.

My good friend of mine says “find ways to do what makes you come alive and make time to do these things, not only on the weekend or when on holiday, but every day.”

  1. Be generous with YOUR gifts

There is a scripture in the bible (Proverb 18v16) that says “a gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

Use the gifts you have been given as these are the very tools to unlock the God-given purposes in you.

If you are an accountant don’t dream of being an artist (unless you are gifted at both art and accounting – there are some of those).  Don’t compare and wish for the gifts of another, walk boldly in the talents and abilities that were given to you.

If you don’t know what these are then ask those closest to you to help identify them.  We all have gifts and they are meant to be “given”, not stored up but generously displayed for the world to see.

I think it’s time. Let’s change the world together…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three pleasures of the Upper Highway

We live in the Upper Highway area. The Upper Highway area is a region west of the city of Durban in KwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa and includes the main suburbs of Kloof and Hillcrest, as well as the smaller areas of Assagay, Botha’s Hill, Forest Hills, Gillitts, Waterfall and Winston Park.  The people in this area are generally perceived as being conservative and the area is known for it’s brilliant schools and value for money houses that have large, lush green gardens. With that comes the attraction of families with children.

I have lived in the Upper Highway area since I was about five years old and have watched the area thrive, from being a small village to a booming suburb with bustling developments springing up like weeds in fertile soil.  Whilst I love this area and it’s beautiful people, I have always longed to live in the Cape.  I wrestle with this desire regularly but know that here is where we are meant to be… for now at least.  This week I was reminded of how blessed I am to live here and so I would like to share three simple Highway area pleasures that Dylan and I came to discover for ourselves.

It was our nine year wedding anniversary on Thursday and Dylan made a reservation for us at the very popular  Quo restaurant, situated in a dingy shopping quarter in the heart of Gillitts.  It was here that we discovered pleasure number one- the incredible fresh cherry tomato, anchovy, caper, olive and feta pasta.  I cannot begin to describe (maybe I could but not going try), how delicious this pasta is.  It’s a culmination of fresh, simple ingredients bursting with wholesome, salty deliciousness.  I ordered their tender Pork Belly (which I believe they are famous for) and ended up eating Dylan’s pasta.  The Pork Belly was great but the pasta was exceptional.  Maybe we love it more than other’s would- it reminded us of the times we have been in Europe, particularly Florence, eating food that is fresh and true.

The second treasure I stumbled upon is literally a stones throw from my house.  My friend Des Dales couldn’t believe I didn’t know about the renowned Kloof Park, which is right around the corner from The Kloof High School.  This beautiful park reminded me of being in the English countryside.   There are jungle gyms for the kids, a delightful stream trickeling through as well as benches and tables scattered under the sheltering trees that have stood there for many years.   We visited the park on Friday afternoon, along with every breed of dog you can imagine- dragging their friendly faced owner’s in tow.  Here every dog is known by name, as if the canines and humans are all the same.  The dogs are socialised and approachable, very few are on leads.  Being in the park made me feel as if I had been transported to a place my heart has longed to be for a very long time.  I was so grateful to have met this enchanting little haven, so much so we decided to wake up early the next day and introduce Google (our Beagle) and Salty (our Corgie cross Collie) to some potential playmates.

Third pleasure, which I am sure all of my friends living in this area already know about, is the recently famed Lineage Coffee shop in Hillcrest.  The words “less is more” defines this wonderful coffee destination owned by Craig Charity.  I have known Craig for many years now and I don’t think I have ever met a more passionate man.  He is a man of deep conviction, not only in his faith but in everything he puts his hand to.  Craig loves God and loves coffee.  His commitment to both has resulted in him winning numerous awards and growing his Lineage brand from strength to strength.  As I sip the coffee I am transported back to Monmouth Coffee, which we visited in Borough market in London a few years ago.  This was the place where I tasted my first cup of “real” coffee and was automatically converted into a complete coffee snob.

To those living in The Upper Highway area, I hope that my three simple pleasures will be yours too and that you are inspired to find your own.  To those living elsewhere, may you be inspired to discover… as they say “the grass is not greener on the other side but only where you water it.”

 

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Pregnant with swine flu, pneumonia and an insurmountable work-load…

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This was the state I was in two months ago, I was “knocked up” and down (both at the same time)!  This is the reason it has been two months since I have had the strength and capacity to write.

It’s incredible what being so sick, never mind pregnant and unable to medicate myself with anything other than panado (does nothing), can do to ones energy and frame of mind.  It’s taken me over a month to recover but I’m pleased to say that I’m back!  I would like to share my thoughts on what my “winter season” has taught me and hopefully inspire you acknowledge the season you are in without allowing your physical and emotional state to govern your actions and life-decisions.

At this time I felt weak, emotional, self-absorbed and downright pitiful, in spite of the fact that I had just received the most incredible news of a miracle growing inside of me.  I began to question where I was at in terms of running my business as well as my capacity as a mother who longed for rest.  I felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities I had to face with a husband who is not around at the moment (studying an MBA).  I was on the brink of complete burn out when all I needed to do was lift my eyes to heaven and “weather the storm”.

Four things I learnt that I should and should not do in “winter”:

1.  I should avoid making life-altering decisions that could drastically change my coarse- the fog of my emotions can lead me off course.

2. Avoid “venting” and complaining, it causes distress and confusion for myself and those around me.

3. Cover myself in a blanket of prayer.

4. I should make time for rest (something I am terrible at doing), after all it’s great to “sleep in” when the wind is howling outside.

As I look back I am reminded of Psalm 84: 5-6 that speaks about “passing through the Valley of Baka”.  The Valley of Baka is the valley of tears.  It’s the valley we go through that is characterised by fear, doubt, depression and weakness, this scripture gives a new perspective on what we should do when in this place.

5What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,

who have set their minds on a journey with God.

6When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,b

it will become a place of refreshing springs.

The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

7They will continue to grow stronger,

and each of them will appear before God.

In John 16:33 it says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

The reality for me is that when I look to myself as apposed to God I become disillusioned, I lose perspective and all contentment disappears in my futile striving for something “better”.  It’s in these seasons that we see people let go of their marriages, start adopting self-destructive habits in attempt to gain momentary pleasure, let go of God-given gifts and talents as well as opportunities.  It’s when we allow the winter season to overcome us that we live for the now without the understanding that “this too shall pass” and that summer will come.  We attempt to take control, to “fix the problem” rather that merely surrender to a God who loves us and longs to take us by the hand and reassure us that He overcame it all for us.

There’s a story in Matthew 8:26 that applies to this very state we get ourselves into: verse 23 “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping (what the heck?). 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”(I can relate to this fear of drowning) 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid ?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  (Jesus is the one who made it calm)

Im pleased to say that my winter has now passed and life is good.  I have a protruding belly and bum (they get really big the third time around), a holiday booked in December, a great business, a loving marriage and two beautiful children.  I have never felt so full of contentment and vigour.  When I close my eyes and think of Jesus, I see his smile.  The storm did pass and I am stronger for it.

May your valley’s become a refreshing spring and may you be strong.

He is good.

Peace…

 

A love letter to my daughter

Dear Mila

Four years ago at 5h10am, after 27 hours of labour and a failed epidural, I gave birth to a miracle- that miracle was you.

My heart almost stopped beating when your limp and tired body was taken from mine.  The nurse was instructed by the doctor to rub you in order to get you to cry.  Hot tears flowed down my cheeks as they suctioned your nose to get you to breath.  When they handed you back to me, your naked skin on mine, I knew my life was changed forever.

You are the delight of my heart.  Each moment I look into your flawless face and dark brown eyes, I stand in awe of a God that is a God of purpose, of intention.  He searched you and he knew you even before you were conceived.  He knew that one day He would create a child that was so full of passion and desire to love and be loved.  A sensitive soul with an inquiring mind.  A creative genius who would one day think up ideas others never had, a child who would hear the whispers of Heaven and follow their trail toward greatness.  His eyes saw your unformed body and he mapped out your days in His book, even before any of them came about.

Then, in a secret place, when the time was perfect He began His work, His masterpiece.  He had planned everything to perfection.  He knew exactly what to do.  He knitted you together in my womb and spoke words of life, blessing and praise as He pondered over the joy you would one day bring, immeasurable, unquenchable joy to all around you.  He saw His work and beamed with pride at how wonderful you are, how fearfully and wonderfully you had been created.  He then spoke and said, “Her name must be Mila Grace, which means favoured one, covered by the unmerited favour of God.”  He then made a declaration over you that could never be broken and it was this:

” I have searched you Mila, and I know you, I will know when you sit and when you rise, I perceive all of your thoughts from afar.  I discern your going out and your lying down; I will be familiar with all of your ways.  Before a word is on your tongue, I will know it completely. I will draw you into me on every side and I will always have my hand upon you.  You can’t run away from my Spirit, my thoughts for you outnumber the grains of sand in all the universe.  I will search your heart and know you, I will create in you a pure heart and I will renew a steadfast spirit within you.  You are mine, I will never leave you.  Look to me, my radiant one and your face will never be covered with shame.  You will have choices to make.  I will set before you blessing and curses to choose, but CHOOSE LIFE.  As you make me your delight I will give you all the desires of your heart.  Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  Anything you ask of me, according to my will will be granted.  The price has been paid in full, you are free.  I have called you for such a time as this so go, run free.  I will make your feet like the feet of a deer so that you may reach the very heights of all that I have to offer you.  Do not hold back, Be BOLD and very courageous. Do not be afraid, remember I am with you and I will never leave you nor forsake you.  My plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, they are yo give you a hope and a future.  You are mine.   Adventure with me Mila on this journey called life.  It will be wild it will be good.”

We love you more than words could ever express and we praise God for giving us the privilege of raising you as our daughter.  It is a job we do not take lightly.  We have dedicated you to Him and pray that you would always choose to run free in the paths of His commands, the paths that lead to a life of fullness and joy.

I will love you forever, unconditionally, immeasurably much.

Love Mom

The words of promise from God to us, are taken form the following scripture references: 

Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:8, Acts 1:8, Psalm 2:8, Galatians 5:1, Esther 4:14, Psalm 18:33, Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6
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Mila at only a few days old.  Pic’s taken by my beautiful friend Kristy Carlson.

The Sweet Sound of Grace

The other day my friend posted a quote on instagram that got me thinking.  It said this, “What Sussie says of  Sally says more of Sussie than of Sally”.  Essentially what this is saying is that judgement of a person does not define the person but rather the one doing the judging.

I think that with out realising, I have fallen into the trap of judging others.  But not only am I guilty of judging I am guilty of worrying about the judgement of others toward me.  I often become consumed at the thoughts of others that I am left maimed, with time wasted and the life sapped from me like a moaning child would sap it’s mothers strength.

I know nothing except what everyone knows.

If there when grace dances, I should dance” 

– W.H. Auden

Here are some of my thoughts surrounding the notion of grace and judgement.

1. “Hurting people hurt people”.  If I am judging others it means that there is hidden hurt, emptiness or issues in me.  Perhaps it’s jealousy, insecurity, selfishness- whatever it is, being ungracious toward others will only harm me.

2. People are far too busy worrying about themselves to remember my issues.  We think that people care about our issues but they are actually far more concerned about their own.  There’s no point in being consumed with worry over what others might think.

3.  If I was perfect then I would have no need for God or growth as a person.  Striving for perfection and feeling like a failure when I don’t attain it is exhausting.  Expecting perfection in others is unrealistic.

4. Not everyone is going to like me. If we were all the same and had all the same interests and passions life would be very boring.

5.”A rich mans heart may be under a poor man’s coat”- Scottish Proverb.  Each person has their own point of reference, their own set of parents, strengths, weaknesses their own struggles.

Oh momentary grace of mortal men,

which we more hunt for than the grace of God.

– William Shakespeare

I once read a beautiful book called “Whats so Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey.  I will never forget the opening story.  It was about a prostitute he encountered that was renting out her two-year-old daughter to men interested in kinky sex as an attempt to support her drug habit.  Her child could earn more in an hour than what she could in one night.  This woman had hit absolute rock bottom and had nowhere to turn, she was asked, “why didn’t you go to the church for help?”  Her response was that of naive shock, “Church!” she cried, “why would I ever go there?  I was already feeling terrible about myself, they would only make me feel worse”.  In the bible Jesus was where the sinners would run to for grace, for forgiveness, for a second chance.  It is sad that nowadays some who are in the darkest, most sinful places feel that the church is the last place they would want to run to when in fact Gods heart is for the lost and broken, those needing grace the most.

Oh how I long to hear the sweet sound of grace both in the church and in my own life.

To “three”, or not to “three”, that is the question-

As you may well know, “To be, or not to be… ” is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  It is probably the most well-known lines of poetry Shakespeare ever wrote.  What Hamlet is reflecting on is the comparison between the pain of life (which he sees as inevitable), and the fearful uncertainty of death as he contemplates suicide.  This famous phrase came to mind after a long discussion with my parents over dinner regarding whether Dylan and I should have more than two children.  My dad’s words were, “if you are thinking of more, you are “mal”(mad in Afrikaans)”

I am one of five children and none of us were “mistakes”- my parents chose to have every one of us and I am so glad that they did!  My two brothers and two sister’s are a part of who I am, they are my story and were some of the tools God used to fashion me into the person I am today.  My siblings are my favourite people in the world, we have an unspoken loyalty to one another, an unbreakable bond.  My husband Dylan is one of four children and I know he feels the same way about his siblings.  There is strength in numbers and children add immeasurable joy and character, but in the same breadth, is life not a little different to how it was when our parents were having children 30-40 years ago?

The pace of life is extreme.  The cost of living is exorbitant and the pressure that is placed on children growing up in a digital age is relentless.  I feel as if it was christmas last week, but easter was already a month ago?  What is going on, am I dreaming?  Where is time going?  Everybody around me is talking about what type of passports they have and what their plan is should things really go “South” in SOUTH Africa.

The thought of how outside influences in this broken world will affect our children is enough to make people never want to have children, I have a few friends who feel this way and I can understand this point of view.  From xenophobia to thousands of people from Northern Africa floating in rubber duckies in the middle of the ocean searching for a better life, one feels depressed at the state of our world.  There is unemployment, poverty, the ANC and their myriad of false promises and insurmountable charges of corruption- this is just to name a few.

Negativity  is everywhere, but it’s nothing new and so surely we were meant to rise above it?   We cannot turn a blind eye but we have to be bigger, to choose not to be depressed and powerless as a result of it.  The time is coming and now is when people will stand up and speak up and do something significant.  I choose to believe in a God that has a bigger plan, a plan that is greater than what our minds can comprehend.  A plan that involves us and our children.

Isaiah 60 calls us to change our thinking and realise the impact we can make when we do.   I was inspired by these words.

“Arise and shine, for your light has come and the GLORY of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

The bad in the world is everywhere but we are given the chance to be light, we are not meant to blend in with the darkness by being overwhelmed and overcome by it.  We are given the opportunity to “arise”, get up out of negative talk and shine.  Could we perhaps be God’s key to transformation in the nations of the world?  Perhaps it’s just a new perspective on the role that our families and our children play that will have us outshining the darkness and living lives of significance.

When a light is turned on in a dark room it infiltrates every crevice.  I want our story and presence to be that light so that maybe some of the darkness that surrounds us will become light and people who are affected by the pain and sorrow of life will be able to see again.

In conclusion you are probably wondering whether we will be having more than two children.  My heart say’s yes, but my head says “it’s hard”.  Logic tells me to play it safe.  Then the joy and pleasure of raising children and the thought of the love we will share and the impact a larger family can make makes me really want another.

Every person has their own road to walk, their own point of reference, their own resources (very important reality) and so this is a very personal question.  I just think that if we do choose to have children, whether one or five, our perspective and vision for our future ought to be right.  I believe we are put here for a very specific purpose, to bring light into the world and infiltrate the darkness, to raise children who will have a meaningful impact.

There was an amazing sunrise at home this morning and so when these little ones woke up we went outside to take a video… Enjoy.

See the video here:

https://youtu.be/L0z2ibq4qmw

5 ways to pass the “Seven Year Itch”.

So yesterday was our eight year wedding anniversary.  We survived the “seven year itch”.  This is a term used by psychologists and portrayed in the 1955 romantic comedy, “The Seven Year Itch”, featuring Marilyn Monroe and Richard Sherman.  The movie contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown by a passing train. The phrase, refers to a declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage.

As I think back over the past eight years, I believe it is choices that have led us to where we are today.  My marriage is by no means perfect (especially whilst Dylan is studying his MBA aka “the divorce coarse”) but one thing I do know is that being in love with my man is a daily decision.   Perhaps you are a newly wed, or you are going onto seven years of marriage, maybe you are divorced or aren’t yet married at all?  Wherever you find yourself on your journey toward love, my hope is that these words might inspire you to keep going, to hold on, to choose love, to choose life…together.

1. My mind- a war zone of fantasy

The power of the mind is immeasurable.  It’s like a war zone.  Unless you are armed and ready for the thoughts that come to ambush you, you will more than likely be defeated.  The result is dwindling pleasure and mutual fulfilment within marriage or worst case scenario, divorce .

Many of us have had past romances.  Relationships with people whether long term or short, have a lasting impact on us whether we like it or not.  We cannot help but carry pieces of our past into the future- call it what you will but this is “baggage”.  My constant challenge to myself is to choose life in the area of my thoughts, to choose to let go of the past especially in those moments when marriage is tough and “the love flame” is more a soldering wick than a burning flame.  When “thoughts of doubt”, or “wondering thoughts” regarding past relationships or even people that showed an interest come to plague- take these thoughts captive and destroy them immediately.

I choose to stare decieving thoughts in the face and then smash them down!  They must GO because if I indulge them I will go on a destructive journey toward brokenness in my marriage.

I believe that an adulterous affair started with a mere thought that became a fantasy, that then progressed into an “itch” and then an action.  The result: utter brokenness.

2.  “Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will, it’s devotion not emotion”- MIC (a popular Christian rap band in the 90’s)

Love is a choice.  I believe that the term “soul mate” is a false reality.  There is not only one person one can fall in love with.  We choose love.  Love is a verb, it’s patient, its kind, love chooses not to be envious, it chooses not to boast, love chooses not to be proud or rude or to become easily angered.  Love does not  enjoy lies but searches for truth and meaning, for purpose.  Love always trusts, always hopes, it chooses to persevere against all odds.  Love chooses not to fail but to win  (my version of 1 Corinthians 13).  Yes, of coarse we fail to match up to these love qualities on a regular basis but when we slip up, love chooses to fail forward, to dust oneself off and try again.

3.   Be grateful- it’s all about perspective.

I think we often get caught up with ourselves.  Entangled in self pity and constrained by habits of comparing ourselves with others.  My very wise sister in law once said these words, “COMPARE AND DIE”.  This is a statement I have always held onto.  Comparisons kill us on the inside.  I know that I battle to be truly grateful for what I have when I compare my possessions and my husbands qualities and actions with the possessions and husband’s of others.

We are all filled with flaws and so I believe that in marriage we need to choose not to look at eachothers others faults but to rather focus on the good.

“All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you” needs to be the anthem of our hearts- even though our partner farts in bed sometimes and in seasons of stress may fail to pay us the attention we so long for.  It’s all about choice.

4.  Love and Respect

The bible speaks about how wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives.  See it as a circle of “what goes around comes around”.  If a wife affirms and respects her husband (even in moments when he is undeserving of it) he will automatically respond with love and she will then give more respect.  Men and woman have been wired this way and believe me, I have tried this, it works well!  When we as woman nag and complain, bicker and shout- the love tanks we so desperately long for our men to fill will remain empty.

5. Forgive and Forget

Growing up my mom would always say “un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.  We have to choose to forgive ourselves and to forgive others.  Sometimes we have every right to be bitter but “bitter waters defile many”.  Streams of bitterness will flow from the depths of your heart and muddy the pools of the lives that are closest to you -i.e. your husband, your children and the lives that they will one day impact.

I hope that my thoughts will ring true to you and in some way or form help with you never succumb to any “itching”.

Here are a few pics from our wedding day eight years ago.  It was a very happy day, a day filled with promise and purpose.

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Hues

It was about 15 months ago when a spark in me ignited a burning desire to explore and action the creative gifts which have been deferred, not through deliberation but through a lack of confidence and a fear of failure. The lack of knowing who I really am and who God sees me to be.

He sees the unseen in me, he knows what is possible in me when his breath gives life to the depths of who I am and who I am called to be.

And so I am entering into a new and exciting season, a season of creativity. A season of becoming who I am in His eyes. Im going on an adventure and I invite you to come with me. Its a season of colour and delight, not one colour…multitudes. It is going to be a multicoloured, multi faceted exploration. Tones, contrasts, bold, bright, gentle, soft hues.