We made it!  It’s the final day of October!  For those who have been doing Write 31 Days, CONGRATULATIONS!!  This is me sending you virtual cupcakes, hot tea and lots of expensive, dark chocolate. Seriously, posting every day for 31 days is a huge accomplishment.  Well done!

This is also our fifth and final Words Matter giveaway.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed the giveaways as much as I have.  Thank you to all who have offered the fantastic prizes, all who have entered, and congratulations to those who have won so far!

This week I’ve put together a fabulous package to wrap up our month of goodies.

The winner of this giveaway will get not one, not two, but THREE books from women that I admire tremendously. 

These three authors have shown through their lives and ministry that words really do matter.

The first book in the giveaway is the beautiful new family Advent calendar just released by Ann Voskamp.

It’s called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and it is an absolute treasure.

If you’ve ever read Ann’s writing, you’ll know what an incredible gift she has, and this gem is no exception.  In fact, I opened it expecting to use it with my children, and I have been so challenged and blessed by it, even as an adult.  I just adore Ann’s perspective, and she weaves Jesus into every single page.

Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you want this book.



The second book in the prize pack is Vivian Mabuni’s Warrior in Pink.  I actually won a copy of this book on my friend Bronwyn’s blog several months ago, and it was so moving.  Since then, Vivian has become an online friend and a great encouragement to me through her writing and her testimony.  Warrior in Pink is Vivian’s story about her journey with breast cancer, and how the Lord cared for her during that intense trial.  Read my review here.


Warrior in Pink cover




On this final day of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Discovery House Publishers is offering a copy of Warrior in Pink for one of you to enjoy as well!








Atlas Girl cover




And last but definitely not least is Emily Wierenga’s memoir, Atlas Girl.  Emily is one author whose voice has really influenced my own writing, and I’m thrilled to be able to give away a copy of this thought-provoking memoir as Emily recounts her life’s experiences thus far, including a battle with anorexia and caring for her mother with brain cancer.  Read my review here.







Again, even if you don’t win, you’ll want to get a copy of Atlas Girl as soon as possible so you can participate in Emily’s online book club starting November 3rd!  More details here.


In addition to her book, I want to take this opportunity to highlight a brand new nonprofit which Emily founded herself.  It’s called The Lulu Tree, and it exists to minister to women in the slums of Uganda.




All proceeds of Atlas Girl go directly to The Lulu Tree, and not only that, but they have a boutique as well!  Check out some of the gorgeous items available — and all prices include free shipping!  You can even purchase your copy of Atlas Girl directly from The Lulu Tree boutique and not pay any shipping at all!

Check out some of the gorgeous items available at The Lulu Tree boutique.  This year, your Christmas shopping could really make a difference:


Three Elephants print – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Hope Blooms Print - The Lulu Tree
Hope Blooms print – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Crocheted Headwarmer
Crocheted Headwarmer
Little Lamb hat
Little Lamb hat
Slouchie Beanie
Slouchie Beanie
Starry Quilt - Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Starry Quilt – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Lulu or Akiki doll
Lulu or Akiki doll


Aren’t they lovely?  See all the beautiful and unique items available by visiting The Lulu Tree boutique here.



For this week’s Five Minute Friday, the prompt is:


FMF - Leave


If you’re new to Five Minute Friday, all the details you’ll need can be found right over here.

And since it’s the final day of Write 31 Days and 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes, and the last day of my 31 Days of Life in South Africa series, I had planned to write about the day my family and I left South Africa to move to the States for a temporary stint before going back.

But …



So instead, you get a special treat ..


Today my sister is here, as my first ever guest Five Minute Friday writer!






(And since it’s Halloween, I’ll indulge you with this picture of the two of us, just a handful of years ago …)




I love what she came up with in five minutes of free writing.  Her unique perspective as the sister of someone who spent ten years in South Africa is the perfect way to round out this series.

Here we go ..



Go. Don’t stay. It reminds me of the Bible. A time to laugh, a time to cry. A time to stay, a time to go.


Through various personality evaluations, I’ve learned what I already know about myself: I’m loyal. One of the hardest things for me to do is to walk away. In some ways, this helps. In some ways, it hurts.


I remember a specific time that I brought my sister back to the airport (though don’t ask me *which* specific time; there were a lot of trips back and forth to various airports). I wanted to pull up to the curb, drop her off, give her a hug, and leave. She wanted me to stay, come inside, chat for a while until the very last moment we had to say goodbye, I had to watch her walk through security.


It might seem counter-intuitive. I just told you I don’t like to leave. But since leaving was so hard for me, I wanted it to be fast, quick, over with as soon as possible.


Don’t get me started on the times I visited her in South Africa, when “leaving” usually took about 36 hours, from her house, to the airport, on a plane, to another airport, on another plane (one more round of that), then finally, home.




Sarah Baar lives and writes in Holland, Michigan.  Read her other guest post, When it’s hard to find hope in the rubble, here.





Now it’s your turn!  Show us your five minutes on the word “LEAVE” by linking up your post via the inLinkz button below ..




Book Giveaway


Please note: Giveaway is only open to entrants with a U.S. mailing address.

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I had marveled at the majesty of it for weeks, but I’d never been to the top.  Then one day my chance arrived.

The student ministry where I worked was hosting a social event for students, and we were going to climb Table Mountain.




The plan was to meet at the campus ministry office at a certain time, then carpool to the base of the mountain.  Of course, since it was college students, we got off to a late start and were seriously delayed by the time we started our hike.




Several students lagged behind while others literally raced to the top.  The average climb should take between an hour and a half to two and a half hours to reach the flat-topped peak.  Since I was staff, I felt I should stay with the last students, to make sure nobody got lost or gave up halfway.




We reached the top just in time to catch the sunset.  It was gorgeous, but obviously posed a problem.

The sun set and we were climbing down on the east side, the path cast into a dark shadow.

Nobody ever told me that going down would be harder than climbing up.  

My thigh muscles were tense.  It was dark, except for the large spotlight at the base of the mountain that lit the mountain at night for the city spectators to enjoy.  Behind me, a student held a flashlight, but the light danced and shook with each step he took, making my descent even more precarious.  Then, “Whooaa!”

He slipped, and my heart skipped two beats.

I thought we were both going down.  

After several more slips and frayed nerves, we finally reached the bottom.  Even in the car, I had to sit in the driver’s seat for about five minutes before my legs stopped shaking enough drive my manual car back to campus.

But it was worth it.


This is Day 30 of 31 Days of Life in South Africa.  Tune in tomorrow for Five Minute Friday and a final, fabulous giveaway!

The African wedding is not an afternoon affair.  It’s not even an all day affair.  It’s an occasion, and sometimes it spans over days, at times up to a week.

But even before the big day, there are months and months of preparations that span far wider than just the bride and groom, or even the bridesmaids and groomsmen.  It’s a union of two family groups, and negotiations must be made.

In South Africa, these negotiations are called lobola, another name for a bride price.  It used to involve a payment of cows from the groom to the bride’s family, and was most often negotiated by the bride’s uncle in her absence.


A white tent will be erected at the bride’s home, hours will be spent on hair getting done, and the cooking will never end.







Sheep are slaughtered, sometimes even a cow.  There’s no such things as invitations; it’s a community event and all are invited.  Some people attend because they’re family, some go because they know the couple.  Others show up for the food.

Traditional fabric is purchased and clothes are handmade for the whole bridal party, both men and women.  Often the bride will wear a white dress for the ceremony and change into a more traditional attire representative of her culture for the reception.





If nothing else, there will be singing.  Lots of singing.  A myriad of voices rising and falling according to the moment.  And where there is singing, there will be dancing.

It’s not a somber occasion by any means; it’s a celebration.  Of the liveliest kind.


This is Day 29 of 31 Days of Life In South Africa, a series in which each post has been written in five minutes flat.  For the rest of the posts in this series, click here.


31 Days - 2014 logo

We were at a campus ministry retreat when we heard the news.

My husband’s uncle had passed away.  His mother’s brother.

We left the retreat to prepare for a nine-hour drive to for the funeral.  I was just under three months pregnant with my first child, and still experiencing a fair share of nausea.

We rode with my husband’s mom and arrived at the family compound, where grief and sadness hung thick like a canopy.

The town was much more rural than Cape Town, and though I had been there a few times, this would be my first Tswana funeral.

The next morning I woke up and walked outside to brush my teeth.  The only water source at the house was a single tap on the exterior wall, which emptied into a drain in the ground.  No sink.  To brush your teeth, you had to put water on your toothbrush outside and find a place to spit in the dirt.




Before I could even make it to the tap, I was greeted by a row of cousins, each with a plastic tray on their laps.  On each tray was a sheep’s head — eyes glazed over, limp tongue sticking out.  The cousins were using flat razor blades to shave off the sheep’s hair.



A wave of nausea swept over me.  I covered my mouth and rounded the corner, tying to get away from the sheep.  Around the bend were more cousins, elbows deep in huge metal bowls filled with sheep intestines.

And such was my initiation to the Tswana funeral.


This is Day 28 of 31 Days of Life in South Africa, a For the rest of the posts in this series, click here.

DSC02802.2I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you to my real-life friend today, Patrice Gopo.  Though we are both Americans, Patrice and I met in Cape Town, where she lived for two years.  Patrice has been a great encouragement to me, particularly in my own writing.  I’ve also relied heavily on her hair advice ever since my daughter was born.

Patrice graciously accepted my invitation to guest post here as part of 31 Days of Life in South Africa — a series in which every post has been written in five minutes flat.  Enjoy her five-minute reflection, and be sure to check out the links to other writing of hers at the end of the post!


South Africa.

It’s the abundance of texture. Ripples across a scalp. Tight spirals sprouting from velvet, brown skin. Dense coils stretching out into regal, black crowns.

Each day I notice them. Black women wearing their hair without the burden of chemical straighteners, without the expectation of making already perfect strands become something else. It’s black women on trains, in cars. At Woolworths and Shoprite. Black women in tall buildings in the City Center. Black women sweeping someone else’s kitchen floor.

And for just a moment, I think I can pretend the feel of my natural spirals is not linked with being counter cultural or making a statement against skewed beauty standards. I can forget the way I wear my hair is connected to a long journey of embracing what God created. As I watch these countless women, I feel free to shed the complication and say that this is simply hair. That grows. Like the nails on my fingers and toes.

Perhaps this is just my imagination. Perhaps these styles—these ripples, coils, and spirals—hold the same heft and meaning here in South Africa as in my country. Maybe.

But still I like to think at least some of these women experience weightlessness where hair is just hair and nothing more. I like to think, at least for a moment, I step lightly too.




Patrice Gopo Head ShotPatrice Gopo, the child of Jamaican immigrants, was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. After marrying her Zimbabwean sweetheart, she spent two years living in Cape Town, South Africa. In the midst of other writing projects, from time to time, Patrice enjoys exploring the subject of natural hair. You can read more of her pieces related to this topic here, here, here, and here. Patrice lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.