Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Signs and Wonders Movement -- EXPOSED

This is a book report I did as part of a Spiritual Life assignment at Steinreich Bible School.

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The Signs and Wonders Movement—EXPOSED is authored by Mark Haville, Chris Hand, Philip Foster, and Peter Glover, each of whom discusses a particular aspect of the “signs and wonders” movement/Word-Faith Movement. Haville shares his personal experience as a former Word-Faith minister, Hand about the “Toronto Blessing” and its fruit, Foster about what is really happening when leaders perform many so-called signs and wonders, and Glover about what the Bible says about signs and wonders and their place in the church today. What I would like to discuss further is the character of many “signs and wonders” leaders, what is actually happening at the meetings, how it compares to what the Bible teaches, and some more personal reflections. This is something I was often very suspicious of when I heard about it or saw it on videos, and this book has given me the confidence that what I see is not the working of the Holy Spirit.

First, Haville gives a lot of insight as to who the leaders in the movement really are and what their lives look like. Many of these preachers experience great personal fame and fortune, and a lot of the money raised for them at meetings only serves to increase their personal comforts. Their “seed sowing” teachings aren't benefiting the givers, but serving to line their own pockets. Many claim exaggerated numbers of converts, many of whom are never seen in churches again. Also, Haville noticed that many preachers wanted nothing more to do with ordinary people after their meetings were over. This kind of character and lack of integrity in leaders is enough to raise serious questions among believers. However, many also claim to have received personal revelations directly from God, which are not necessarily supported by scripture. All of this, completely apart from the fact that what they're doing at meetings is merely a performance, falsely taught as the working of the Holy Spirit, is enough to ask if they're really preaching according to God's will, or if they're actually wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.

What is happening at many Faith-Word meetings is far from “manifestations” or “anointings” of the Holy Spirit. These so called “manifestations” are often characterized by people falling over, laughing or shaking uncontrollably, becoming rigid like statues, having visions, or experiencing emotional and physical healings. (Also, interesting to note is that 95% of people have a “good trip” in a trance, but 5% have a “bad trip”, whereby they are often damaged for a long time.) What is actually happening though is stage hypnotism, where the leader draws people into alternate states of consciousness. This is a process leaders have been taught by other leaders, and many don't even know that what they're doing is related to occultic practices and opening people up to dark spirit worlds. The preacher has to be in complete control of the proceedings, build expectation, and create an atmosphere that brings people into trances. Music is a big part of how they do this. Attendees are taken through a process where they are encouraged to empty their minds, not to think, not to pray, not to analyze what is happening to them but rather to “just drink.” In the end, what people experience can all be achieved by hypnosis, and the physical healings people claim are temporary, something that can also be achieved the same way. Also, Haville points out that a lot of modern speaking in tongues is nothing but gibberish, something that can be learned as well, whereas genuine speaking in tongues can't be done randomly at a person's own will. These explanations all make it very clear that this isn't God moving; not on His own, and not through occultic practices.

What the book analyzes as well is what does the Bible teach about signs and wonders and how does it compare to what is really happening. A big emphasis, which I think is very important, is how the Holy Spirit is the primary focus in these leaders and at these meetings. However, the Bible clearly states that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus, not of Himself. Also, signs and wonders in Acts were performed primarily by apostles and a few others closely connected to them; it was not common or normal for all believers, nor should we expect it to be today. “We are not called to expect on-going signs and wonders. The sign-gifts were for a very specific purpose and attached to a very specific office—that of the apostle.” (pg. 91) The authors do believe that God still works signs and wonders today, but that they are not the norm and are performed at God's will, not man's. The Bible also never tells people to empty their minds, stop thinking, or stop praying, but rather to pray, be watchful, sober, awake, and to test the spirits. Although there are indications in Acts that it was a significant event when believers received the Holy Spirit, it never tells of people being unable to control themselves, falling down, or laughing hysterically as a result. What I'm not sure of is if I agree with all of Glover's points about how little place there is for signs and wonders or apostolic gifts now. I would not call myself a cessasionist, but I think he brings out good points of what we need to beware of, and I believe that a large amount of the spectacles we see are not actually God at work.

There were some things I personally noted through reading the book that also helped me to see more that the “signs and wonders” movement is not of God. In having to be in complete control of meetings and “anointing” people at their own will, it became clear to me that many of these leaders are seeking to put God under their control, rather than placing themselves under God's control. They want to decide what God does and when. Also, throughout the book, I had to consider what people are seeking at these meetings. Foster explains how people become addicted to the euphoria they experience in their trances and return to meetings, seeking the same experiences again and again. This reminds me a lot of the “high” people often seek in drugs and sex. Could it be that most are just seeking a self-fulfilling “feel-good” experience? And finally, what is noted in the book, and I also see in the Bible is that a lot of people just want a show. They want to see something exciting happen. It's nothing new; people came to Jesus repeatedly seeking signs, but He knew their hearts and knew it wouldn't cause them to believe in Him. I would venture to say that overall, the hearts and intentions of many leaders and attendees of these meetings are just not right.

I would be quick to recommend The Signs and Wonders Movement—EXPOSED. It's something I have long been suspicious about, and now I understand that was for good reason. Many of the leaders don't deal with integrity and they are (knowingly or unknowingly) deceiving thousands of people by telling them they're experiencing the Holy Spirit when really they've been trapped in occultic practices. They encourage practices and produce results not found in scripture, but rather engage in occultic practices that the Bible forbids. The results produced by these “anointings” are not scriptural. Also, leaders seem to be trying to make God their servant, and attendees are seeking self-fulfilling experiences to make them feel good. I'm glad I read this book and now understand what many of these so-called “signs and wonders” are really all about.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Pancho: A Low German Feature Film for the Whole Family

Yesterday, my husband and I went to see Pancho at SBS. Pancho is a feature length, Low German film by Will Friesen, who is well known for his comical Youtube videos in Low German. Later this week, there will be numerous more screenings at the Mennonite Museum.

Pancho is a coming of age story about, well, Pancho, who is growing up, and wrestling with no longer having a Mom. It is set in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, where Pancho is spending his summer doing small jobs, riding his bike, playing ball, squabbling with his little sister, and hanging out with friends. But he's not prepared for the changes that are coming.

Pancho is a good film that the whole family can enjoy. I found that the story moved a little slow at first, but during this time, the character was well developed and the viewer could understand who Pancho was and what he was going through. It dealt well with the family's struggles and brings them to a solid conclusion. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry.

For me, it was exciting to see a movie filmed in the area where I live, about Mennonites who speak Low German. I think Will has done a great job capturing some of the culture, and I was glad he touched on some of the themes he did. I would encourage anyone in Chihuahua to go support Will and enjoy a good movie with the family later this week the the Museo Menonita, km 10. The entrance fee is $50 per person.

Show Times:

December 8,9: 6pm, 8pm
December 10: 4pm, 6pm, 8pm
December 11: 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm

And for my friends in Ontario, watch for Pancho coming to Aylmer and Leamington in the New Year!

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Year In Mexico

I have lived in Mexico for over a year now.  People were nervous about me moving down here last year. I was a little too. I used to never want to live here.  But then, neither did my husband.  That's not exactly the point of why either one of us came.  When I came here, I realized that a lot of the fears people have about this area have little grounds. I don't say no grounds; yes, bad stuff happens. It did in Canada too. I want to clear the misconceptions and paint a small picture of what life here really is.

My home is outside Cuauhtemoc, in the province of Chihuahua, home of the highest concentration of Low-German speaking Mennonites in the world. We live among two other cultures here: the Spanish speaking Mexicans and the native American Tarahumara people. We are surrounded by both wealth and poverty. There is a lot of wealth along the business highway where we live. But a drive into town greets you with poor housing, youth on the street washing windshields at intersections, and Tarahumara women with their babies walking along the lanes of stopped traffic asking for money all day. There are some big contrasts.

But what's the same and what's different? How does life compare to my life in Canada?

Living Costs and Wages

When I talk about living costs here, I can't do so without talking about wages. The wages of most average unskilled workers are nothing to boast of. A lot of Canadians or Americans would certainly have a difficult time adjusting. It's not uncommon for people to make 35-55 pesos an hour doing manual labour. Some make more. It also depends on the type of work. There are men that go to work six days a week and bring home less than 5,000 pesos a month. ($1.00 CAD = 15.23 pesos)

A lot of living costs are comparable to what I was used to in Ontario. The cost of groceries is about the same. (Eating out here does offer more affordable options, that aren't all fast food.) Gasoline is about the same. Vehicle insurance is cheaper.  Utilities is where I'm not sure.

Housing is a challenge for many people here. Because mortgages aren't available here, and the average wages are so low, it's very difficult for a family to own a home. There are also very few places available to rent. What is common is for employers to have houses or apartments available for their employees and it becomes part of their employment terms. Such is our current situation.

Garbage and Recycling

I tell people one of the things I miss about Canada is garbage pickup and recycling. Seriously. When you can't recycle, and you have to load up all your garbage and take it to the dump (my hubby takes care of that part), you'll miss the days of dragging it out to the roadside once a week too. There is pickup in some areas, but we don't enjoy that convenience.


Roadwork in Mexico is all about job creation! Frequently we will see many men working all day to patch a small section of road. The goal is to make it last until the next week or the next rainfall, whichever comes first. Afterward people will drive all over the road, dodging ridiculous sized potholes, trying not to blow their tires. And just for fun, or to make a statement, sometimes someone will go and plant a tree in a hole. And after enough people blow their tires, or a few more weeks pass, they will go patch it again. They're looking out for themselves!

Vehicle Regulations

There are not as many regulations here surrounding vehicles as in Ontario. Sure, we save ourselves some money in some aspects, but honestly I wish there were more. I remember the days in Ontario where a lot of these things got frustrating. However, my friends from Canada wouldn't have to drive behind too many vehicles here billowing black, putrid smoke for miles on end, and they wouldn't complain about their E-tests anymore.

However, there are things that should be fairly simple that somehow aren't. After purchasing a used vehicle last year from a friend, my husband went to the appropriate office in town to change over the ownership. He succeeded after about 10 visits. With every visit, they demanded different paperwork. He had documents ripped up in front of him one day, only to have the same documents demanded by a different clerk the next. He got frustrated, to say the least.


Healthcare is different here too. There are both public and private options. You can register for public health insurance for a small yearly fee, which gives you access to a public hospital. However, wait times are long, service often poor, and I have not heard too many positive stories yet from the public hospital in town. My husband and I have a a private health insurance plan. Although we do have to pay a deductible for most things, the money we saved on dental work this past year was almost equal to our annual fee. When we had our miscarriage, my husband opted to taking me to a hospital specializing in women. Although our treatment wasn't covered, it was still a good choice for us. We also have to pay for regular doctor visits. But when we do have a baby, we will be able to consider more options because of our insurance policy. We do recommend others to look into extra health insurance. In our one year experience, it has been completely worth it.

A few things that are different here as well is there is a much higher C-section rate. And many C-sections are not actually necessary. That could be a long topic for discussion. What I also see as an issue is way too many pharmacies. It's almost unbelievable how many there are. And when I go to a pharmacy with a prescription, if I need five pills, but there's 20 in the box, I have to buy the whole box. No neatly labelled yellow bottles with the precise amount needed. Aside from this being very unregulated, it's not always easy on the wallet either.


The style of cuisine here is quite different from Canada. There are Mexican dishes and flavours, Mennonite ones, and American. If you want a taste of America, there is Subway, KFC, and Pizza Hut not too far away. You'll have to drive further to get to a McDonald's, but luckily there are lots of other burger joints. One thing Mexico in general does not do well is salads and restaurants usually don't offer much selection in. Sometimes the ingredients don't compliment each another well, and chances are your only choice of dressing is Ranch. A side salad with a meal consists of a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce and a slice or two of tomato and cucumber.  But their desserts are a lot more affordable. I can eat a tasty slice of cheesecake for 28 pesos instead of 7 dollars.

Living here with food sensitivities is more challenging because of the lack of products available, and many of the ones that are are quite expensive. It's also an issue that there isn't a lot of knowledge about. This makes it more difficult when we receive an invitation somewhere for a meal. I can't simply say I can't eat gluten. I've learned to simplify my explanation and be appreciative when I know people have tried to accommodate me.

Government and Police

Unfortunately, there isn't a shortage of corrupt politicians and police officers in Mexico. I haven't had any personal experiences yet. But if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, the chances are pretty good you can pay off the officer and save yourself a trip into town to pay your ticket. In school in Canada, we were taught that if we were in trouble, find a police officer. I can't say I'd teach that to my kids here.

Snakes and Spiders

This is honestly my biggest fear living here. I have been able to stay clear of snakes this year, but spiders are an almost daily nuisance. I never know when or where I will find one crawling in the house. On a few occasions, we've had one on our bed. Thankfully, most of them aren't dangerous and we've never had black widows in the house. Henry finds them from time to time around the yard. I try not to look for them. If I know there could be one hiding somewhere, I let him tackle it. Carefully.

All in all, I like my life here. It's different, but in a lot of ways not that different at all. My husband goes to work. I cook, clean, do the laundry, the dishes, etc. We spend time helping at our church. We hang out with friends. We live life.  I've had to adjust to less convenience than I was used to.  When money is tight, you have to cut costs somewhere. But you learn what matters, what you really need, and what you perhaps just want. In the end, we didn't come here for convenience. We came here because we sense this is where God wants us to be. We're here to serve, not to enjoy every convenience we can. And so we live, love, and try to serve faithfully where needed.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

An Unexpected Anniversary

Warning: This is a pregnancy/miscarriage post. Although I try not to be too graphic, some things I just say the way they are. Use your own discretion in reading.

Today, Friday, September 30, was our first anniversary. Today we were planning on making our big pregnancy announcement. That plan got flushed down the toilet this week, sadly, quite literally.

We got our positive pregnancy test September 6. Except we didn't know it was positive at first. We got a super faint line in the positive window of our home test. My husband Henry and I had eagerly looked at it together. No?? Really?? But there was a faint line and I had read a faint line means I'm pregnant. But we weren't sure. So we waited awhile and headed to a different pharmacy for another test. The same thing, except this time it was a little darker. "Well, I guess I'm not" I said and shed some tears of disappointment.

I tried to accept this, but kept thinking. I went to my laptop and did some research. I went back to Henry and happily told him he was indeed a Daddy! I had baked apple pie that day. It would provide solace if it was negative, or serve to celebrate if positive. So we celebrated with coffee, apple pie, and ice cream.

I called the midwife to ensure I was right. She thought my test was likely positive. I did ask about the uterine cramping I was having. She did say it could be an indication the pregnancy wasn't viable, but we hoped for the best. I was a Mommy!

Cramping persisted, but without a trace of blood, easing my fears considerably. Besides, I had read this was common and normal.  However, we held off with sharing the news with family or friends for awhile, just to be safe. My first bouts of nausea came within two days of the positive test, but were generally eased by snacking. I had a break for about a week, and then the nausea and lack of appetite came back much stronger.

A few days prior to this, on September 16, I started to spot on and off pretty consistently. Although I had uterine cramping for a couple weeks, it didn't intensify with the spotting. I had checked my temperature the morning I got concerned and my temperature had dropped considerably. I broke into a heap of tears, convinced we were inevitably miscarrying. Henry tried his best to comfort me and then went to Google, his go-to solution when he has a question. His conclusion: drop the thermometer. Many pregnant women experience temperature drops and end up being completely fine. I took the advice, knowing that I had a temperature drop two days before our positive pregnancy test and it went back up the next day.

I did take it easier, trying to avoid anything too strenuous. I went about my lighter daily work, or at least until the nausea got worse a few days later. I endured the morning sickness, trying to eat, but thankfully didn't have to vomit once. Then a week ago, I had no nausea and could eat easier. Yay! I went about my day, was washing some dishes, when I felt I should really go to the bathroom and check. My spotting was red now. I called Henry immediately, seeing when he could be home. I tried to hold tight and not assume the worst. But it was hard not to. I got through to the midwife, and she suggested a trip to a doctor's office to get an ultrasound. At 6 1/2 weeks, they should be able to detect a heartbeat, which would give us reassurance.

Okay. A few deep breaths. Try to hold the tears. Start drinking to fill my bladder. Off to the doctor. After the longer than expected initial background/intake process, which was putting my bladder in a lot of pain, I squeezed Henry's hand as we got to see our tiny baby up on a screen, baby and sac measuring only approximately 7mm. Although the doctor could not detect a heartbeat, he thought the pregnancy looked good. The baby did measure a little small for how far along I was, and he figured that was why he couldn't detect the heartbeat.

It was enough to reassure us. He prescribed some progesterone to stop the bleeding and strengthen implantation, advised me to avoid any strenuous work for the next few days, and come back in a week to check again, on our anniversary. But we ended up seeing him again sooner than expected.

I went home, took it easier, leaving more strenuous tasks for my husband. I felt pretty good overall. The next morning, I had severe bowel cramping and some diarrhea. I tried to adjust and used my better judgment for some things. The cramping slowly eased over the next couple days. Monday, we had a rainy day, so I couldn't do my laundry. I busied myself with some other lighter things that needed to be done. Tuesday morning, I was able to go in and have my first appointment with the midwife. Although it wasn't a full prenatal appointment, we talked about how things were going, filled out some paperwork, etc. Before I had left home in the morning, I did some light housework and got a couple loads of laundry on the line. But somehow I felt like I needed to be a little extra careful.

Towards the end of our visit with the midwife, I was having some abdominal cramping, assuming it was just because of a full bladder. We had our appointment en route to some business matters, and we stopped for lunch. I made my way to the bathroom quick, getting pretty desperate for relief. But the blood clots I lost in there unsettled me a little. We had lunch and went about business. But the cramping didn't ease up. I felt like I had my period. Although I had had frequent cramping, this felt different. But I had to remind myself not assume the worst again.

I tried not to worry too much, but then got a message from a family member, asking how things were going. We chatted pregnancy stuff, but after mentioning the clots/period cramping combination, she was definitely concerned. I didn't want to believe she was right. Having left my jacket at the midwife, we stopped there later in the afternoon on our way home. I mentioned what I had started to experience a few hours earlier. Not good. Go home and lay down. I shed some tears and she gave me instructions as to what to do and what not to do. With tears still in my eyes, I went back to the truck and informed Henry. She didn't want to give us false hope...

We went home. Henry held me as I cried, but had to go back to work. I went to bed and cried more, but had to get up to distract myself with something else. What we had been afraid of was likely about to happen. I was already thinking through all the what-nows, and changes to our almost perfect plans we had made around our baby. Henry was still hopeful that evening. He was confident it was okay, and that there would be a heartbeat when we went back to the doctor a few days later. I tried. I had already given up all hope, but I tried to hold on to it again.

We prayed together that evening and went to bed. He opted out of working late on a home project, knowing I needed him beside me. I tossed and turned for hours, not being able to sleep well. And then it started. Around 3am, I began to get extreme radiating pain through my entire abdomen and in my back. I felt like my bowels were tearing apart. I could hardly sit because of the pressure it added. Henry called the midwife. I was likely experiencing a mini-labour. Tea and warm baths to help the process along. The intense pain soon subsided and were followed by the contractions the midwife had mentioned, anywhere from around 3 to almost 10 minutes apart, varying in intensity. We did the best we knew, having had no labour preparation. Henry supported me and held my hand through the pain.

After a few hours, the pains eased, exhaustion took over and we slept for a couple hours.  When the pain started in the night, I told Henry that I couldn't physically or emotionally handle being alone for most of 14 hours the next day, as he had a very full work day. He took the morning off of work, but as the day progressed, it became clear he couldn't leave me alone for more than a few minutes at a time. So he helped me "labour," made me breakfast, brought me lunch in bed, made cups of teas, and did whatever else he could.

In the afternoon, we were ready to let go. Henry took my hands and we prayed. We just let God have it, and asked for the baby to come soon, to be able to know it when it came, and be able to bury it. We hadn't been specific enough in regards to the pain, it seemed. Almost immediately the contractions came more frequently and more intense, with very few breaks from the pain in between. I took another bath, hoping this would bring it to where it could come out. After a fair bit of screaming, I finally conceded to taking a couple Advils to try ease the pain. It could be a few hours yet.

It was more. I kept "labouring." It eased off at times and we got a couple more hours of rest late afternoon. When we went to bed at night, I got a few drowsy hours before the contractions began regularly again. Soon my husband had to get up and hold and support me through them again. My screams came half from the pain, half from the frustration of how long we had to endure. The utter exhaustion and lack of sleep wasn't helping either. I had already started thinking Where is God? First He takes our baby, then leaves me alone to suffer for so long.

Close to dawn, we caved. We decided it was time to go to the hospital for some other pain relief. We called the doctor first and he met us at his office for another ultrasound, to see how everything was coming out. He explained that the fetus had pretty much dissolved and come out in pieces. We didn't have the chance to hold or bury our first, tiny child.

Although everything was progressing well, (as far as a miscarriage goes), the doctor did recommend the hospital for some pain relief through IV. It would help more than a pill. So off we went, got checked in, I donned a lovely gown, and endured the pain of getting the IV in, and then the initial nausea, and temporary blurred vision of the pain reliever. We spent the day there, mostly doing nothing, but we were able to have a break from the contractions and get a little rest. In the evening, we were sent home with a prescription for some other pain relievers, and we were also relieved to be able to spend the night in our own bed.

We had a good night and I was able to sleep through most of it. I was up early, not able to sleep more because of everything on my mind. My phone started going off shortly with some anniversary wishes. Although thankful, it was hard responding with the news that we had just lost our baby. Although we otherwise wouldn't had much time until later in the weekend to celebrate it together, it was still far from the anniversary we had anticipated.

We had had doubts about how the pregnancy was going to go. (This added to our hesitation in sharing the news earlier.) But nothing prepared us for what a miscarriage was really like. We had no idea going through a miscarriage at 7 weeks would mean such a long, intense "labour." I have not had the chance to give birth to a full-term, live baby, but I do know my husband has never seen me in such prolonged, intense pain. We had hoped to be able to see and hold our baby; we never got to. There was stuff that came out that we wondered if it was part of it, but we couldn't really tell for sure. As much as I dislike the thought, our baby more or less just got washed down drains, the toilet, or thrown in the garbage.  We had read a little about miscarriages, but in the end, the experiences of women are vastly different. All we know is ours, with the only child we have had so far.

Today has been better. There have been emotional triggers, just thinking about it, thinking of telling people, or hearing the cry of a baby while we were in the hospital. But for the most part, I'm cried out, at least for now. With the medication, the pain is now very bearable, and I haven't been in bed for most of the day. I'm taking it easy, allowing my body to heal, hoping next time we can keep it.

I still consider myself a Mommy, even if I never got to hold my baby. My husband has been an awesome Daddy. He has taken amazing care of me. Even though our day was not what we had hoped, I rejoice in the year we've had together, and the suffering has deepened our love. This will probably always be on my mind every time our anniversary comes, and it will be when May 16 rolls around and I wonder about the baby we could have had. Was it a boy or a girl? We don't know. (I was convinced it was a boy, and Henry that it was a girl.) But in writing this, I know he or she will not be forgotten.

Currently, I'm doing fairly well. I have recovered physically faster than I had expected. I have unexpected emotional lows at times, where Henry needs to be there for me, hold me, or take me out for a walk. Spiritually, I have wrestled with questions. God said "No" to our prayers, when we prayed for a healthy pregnancy, and when we let go during the miscarriage. Can I accept that? Was the miscarriage really God's will? Can I still be a Mom? I don't know if I will get the answers, but I believe that in time healing will come.

Monday, 26 September 2016

"One of the Few" Review

"One of the Few" is the account of Marine fighter pilot Jason Ladd's journey to faith and the belief system he has come to embrace. It follows his story from childhood through college, and well into his adult years, taking the reader to many locations around the globe. Jason recounts his younger years, being passive to the idea of God, until he was forced to think about what he really believed when challenged by his wife. With time and searching, he comes to embrace the faith that he further presents in the his book.

Aside from his personal testimony, Jason uses his experiences to draw comparisons between military service and the life of a Christian. He tackles many engaging topics, including Christians serving in the military, the transgender movement, pornography, marriage, alcohol abuse, and why various worldviews have become so popular. This variety does make for an engaging read.

Jason finished the book better than he started. The first part was less engaging for me. This was partly due to all the military terminology, which I am largely unfamiliar with, although he does try to explain as much as possible. I found that many of his illustrations didn't flow well. He touched on some subjects, but didn't discuss them fully, leaving me with questions. There were also inconsistencies in some details, causing confusion, and some incorrect facts were overlooked.

However, the style did improve as I progressed and the author was more successful in engaging me. Jason shares his beliefs with strong conviction. He is not afraid to share what he personally believes. He doesn't shy away from sensitive topics and chooses to speak up against them, rather than stand on the tolerance fence. The reader is left without a doubt that the author has truly been transformed.

"One of the Few" is a worthwhile read, exploring the life of a Marine, questions about faith, and the answers with the power to change a man. It provides a well-informed perspective on various worldviews and emphasizes the importance of holding to one, as well as teaching our children, instead of leaving them to search for answers on their own. This is a book that will perhaps challenge you to get off the fence and choose where you stand.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and was in no way compelled to write a positive review.

As posted on

Sunday, 27 March 2016

My Low-Fodmap Life

There's an aspect of my life that I haven't shared much about on this blog: IBS.  I've often thought about sharing my story, but have never quite gotten to that point.  In short, about eight years ago, I became really sick with a parasite, and even after using a couple rounds of antibiotics and going through a few natural cleanses, I was still having problems.  So my road of testing began, and we were able to solve a smaller problem, but still didn't have an explanation for my stomach pains and bowel patterns.  After a series of tests, some very uncomfortable and humiliating, the results were in. Nothing.  However, with my set of symptoms, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a functional bowel disorder where nothing appears to be wrong with the bowels, but they don't function properly.  As a result, the patient often experiences abdominal cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, gas, bloating, etc.

Well, there seemed to be ways to at least control symptoms, and the mantra my doctor gave me was "fibre, water, exercise" as well as managing stress. And so I tried a high-fibre diet, eating All-Bran, Fibre 1, multigrain bread products, adding inulin to my drinks, etc.  Also, yogurt and probiotic supplements were recommended.  I also tried using an antispasmodic drug for a while.  So I tried different things. However, as much as I was pushed to have a big bowl of fibre cereal every morning, I kept telling my doctor that milk in the morning made me feel queasy.  Eventually this led to the question of lactose intolerance, and about a year after my initial testings, I was confirmed somewhat lactose-intolerant.  Now I was diving into experimenting with expensive dairy free milks and lactase enzymes.

In short, after some time, I learned to manage my condition, and when I didn't feel good, I could usually trace it to something I ate.  Then about two years ago, it all started to go downhill.  This happened after a rather stressful time in my life, and I confess I prayed suffering upon myself.  Soon, no matter what I ate it seemed, almost every afternoon I was plagued with pains in my stomach, back, and got bad gas.  After awhile, this sent me back to a doctor's office to see if anything else was going on.  Tests related to my digestive tract were clear and I was back to assessing my diet.

While working with a dietician, I learned about the Low-Fodmap diet, a diet developed in Australia, with credible research behind it. About 70-80% of individuals that suffer from IBS experience improvement.  The basic theory behind the diet is that there are certain groups of carbohydrates that don't digest and then create a lot of water and gas in the digestive tract, causing pain, bloating, discomfort, gas, etc.  In order to go through the diet, you cut out all five carb groups (fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols) for about 6-8 weeks, until you see improvement, and then add each group in individually to see which foods cause symptoms.  So it means a time commitment of several months to follow through with the elimination process.  The research and success rate did make me consider it, but the lists of foods to avoid were outrageous.  I tried finding recipes for this diet, and most of them contained unfamiliar ingredients, would have been expensive, or just didn't look like food I would eat.  Many other books on IBS recommended high fibre recipes including lots of beans or carciferous vegetables; not good when they really cause gas issues.  Besides all this, in a home down to three people, I would have to make most of my own food, which hardly made sense.

So, I left it on the shelf.  But since my husband and I started dating last year, my health became a frequent topic of discussion, and often caused inconvenience.  After we were married, I tried a few different elimination diets, including gluten and dairy.  This seemed to provide some relief.  But I was still daunted by the Low-Fodmap experiment.  However, my husband was supportive and willing to go through it with me.  A trip to El Paso was also necessary to get ingredients, due to lack of availability of certain products in Mexico.

To give readers unfamiliar with the diet an idea of what I was up against, here is a brief list of foods that were off the menu, or could only be eaten in limited amounts.
  • apples, pears, peaches, plums, mangos, guayaba, blackberries, apricots, watermelon, dried fruits
  • honey, fructose syrups
  • milk products like milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc (unless lactose free)
  • beans
  • wheat based bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods
  • garlic and onions (the green part of green onions was allowed, as well as garlic/onion infused oils)
  • barley, rye, regular oats
  • avocados, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, celery, cabbage, beets, peas, corn
  • almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • chocolate
Giving up gluten especially was hard.  Cooking without garlic and onion.  Being limited as to which fruits and vegetables I could eat.  Having to read labels on pretty much any packaged food.  It was daunting.

So I spent a lot of time preparing, researching, gathering recipes, and becoming a Pinterest addict.  And we began our endeavour. We started the process in early January and we're still going at it.  We have a couple weeks of the process left, after which I will start eating more foods I can tolerate, but still be careful for a few months while I experiment with others I'm still unsure about.  Although some dairy is allowed in this diet, for most of it, I have been very low dairy/dairy free.  I have also done a natural cleanse, taken probiotics, bone broth, sauerkraut, other supplements, etc. It has been a lot to keep up with.  Also, I cook all my own broth, make my own salad dressings, ketchup (which we actually like better than Heinz), and my own sausage.

When people hear about all this stuff I can't have, they wonder what we actually eat.  Well, I have been able to adapt and cook really good meals.  I cook more with raw herbs and spices and use fruit/citrus flavours.  There are things that are still harder.  There are foods I miss terribly.  But we have managed.  At home, it's not too bad.  The challenge becomes greater when we go out somewhere to eat.  But here are some examples of the great food we do enjoy.

Breakfasts generally consist of some sort of potato and egg combination, heuvos rancheros, veggie omelettes, baked oatmeal, gluten free pancakes, or simply fruit, cereal, or smoothies.

This orange french toast on homemade gluten free bread was a real treat.

Lunch is generally our biggest meal, and I've discovered some great new recipes and played with some different flavours.  Chinese five spice and fresh ginger is what makes this an awesome beef ginger stir fry.

Sometimes a little modification is all that's necessary to make a dish that you normally enjoy. Such is the case with this Hawaiian chicken and Herbed Basmati Rice.

This Cincinnati Chili included a unique blend of spices and is served on gluten free pasta.

Homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning and warm sauteed pineapple totally puts a new favourite kick on chicken fajitas.

Orange marmalade isn't just for toast. Sometimes it's for Spicy Orange Glazed Pork Chops too, with a rice and veggie pilaf.

Comfort food can be had too, and we enjoyed a classic Shepherd's Pie with a salad and homemade ranch.

And sometimes, you just need some gluten-free chocolate pudding cake! :)

In addition to this, we also eat lots of salads (although we avoided raw veggies for awhile), and eat lots of soups to get cooked veggies for easier digestion.

I must say, I am looking forward to being done with this process. It hasn't been easy to stick out, and without my husband, I think I would have caved numerous times.  It hasn't brought as much relief as we had hoped for, but slowly we're working through what's okay, what's not, and what we're still not sure about.  We've had to work with the challenge of getting enough fibre without eating wheat.  Right now, it looks like I may have to stay low-gluten or gluten-free, although we're not entirely sure yet. That is one really sad possibility for me. There is definitely a wealth of fantastic gluten-free recipes out there, and although I have succeeded in baking a few fairly good breads, it still doesn't measure up to wheat. And in times when I get super frustrated about what I can't eat, I have to be thankful for what I can still eat, remember that I'm not alone, and know there's more to life than food.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Effects of Communism on the Identity of Russian Mennonites

I wrote the following essay for my final assignment for my "Mennonite History" class at Steinreich Bible School.


Communism had detrimental effects on Russian Mennonites, turning their peaceful, prosperous lives into lives defined by persecution, pain, heartache and intense suffering.  I decided to write about the persecution of Mennonites in Russia during communism because I was sure to find a wealth of information.  However, I discovered it to be a heavy and depressing subject.  The documentary “And When They Shall Ask” describes the lives of the Mennonites prior to communism as “a long, soft summer evening.”  However, in the early 20th century, their economic progress, well-developed educational systems, churches, culture, and family life were slowly snuffed out by the Marxian philosophy adopted in a nation for the first time.  The goal was to change not only the face of the nation, but also the face of the individuals.  And it did.  For the majority, the face of the Mennonite was not transformed into the “communist man” that was hoped for, but it did transform the Mennonite face into one of pain, hardship, grief, and, starvation; a face robbed of its freedom of religion, education, culture and prosperity.  Moreover, it robbed untold faces of their existence and left behind a trail of broken families.  Those who survived were indeed changed.      

            The years before the introduction of communism were the Golden Years for the Mennonites.  They had increased in numbers, wealth, and had built a good life in a new home with their own public institutions. It was a time of growth, peace, and prosperity.  Leaders in agriculture, Mennonite farmers developed new methods and machinery and also became involved in industry.  Motivated to be well-educated, they governed quality schools with their own curriculum.  Some respect was given by the government to their pacifist views, and alternative military service options were made available.  It was a culture admired by Tsar Nicholas I, a culture that was able to contribute to the nation, but was also able to remain independent with freedom of language, education, culture, and religion.       

“Communism” is defined by Merriam-Webster simply as “a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property.”  It made its way into Russia shortly after the turn of the century.  Dissatisfied peasants rose up in 1905, World War 1 began in 1914, and the Russian Revolution followed in 1917—the year that communism was fully established.  Civil war ensued, as the Red Army, made up of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, fought against the White Army, those resisting communism.  In 1924, Lenin died and Joseph Stalin began his rule in Russia.  He introduced the Five Year Plan in 1928, demanding rapid industrialization (supposedly to defend against invasion) and large collective farms; the plan resulted in a severe famine from 1932 to 1933.  Furthermore, churches were shut down and schools forced to adopt Marxian philosophy. Throughout Stalin’s life, countless people suffered under his communist rule.

            During the earlier communist years, from 1918 to 1921, one of the greatest terrors to the Mennonites was an anarchist named Nestor Makhno. Makhno led a huge army, comprised mainly of peasants under the motto “anarchy is the mother of all order.”  Every land owner was viewed as an enemy, and thus, the wealth of the Mennonites made them a prime target.  The army invaded villages where they robbed homes, murdered innocents, burned property, and raped women and children. They took food, livestock, and anything else that could be taken; what was left was destroyed.  When the German army entered the Ukraine in April 1918, the Mennonites were able to experience a brief time of peace and security.  The soldiers came with a familiar language and background and became welcome guests in the homes of the Mennonites.  However, with this also came some conflicting feelings.  Children were curious over the weapons that accompanied the soldiers, which made it more difficult for parents who held strong pacifist values.  Nevertheless, the peace was short lived.  When the war ended in November 1918, the German army retreated and the Mennonites’ security went with them.

            With the German army gone, Makhno returned to terrorize the Mennonites once again.  The Germans had left weaponry behind, and with it a great struggle of faith and values, particularly for the younger generation.  As young men watched their mothers and sisters get raped by the anarchist army, they became angry and questioned their non-resistance philosophy.  Many became convinced they had to take up arms with their roles as men and protect the ones they loved.  Thus the “Selbstschutz” was formed, meaning self-defense. However, this defense only provoked further attacks.  Hundreds were killed by the army in the fall of 1919, including 245 in Chortitza alone.  Some villages lost all their men.  (A severe famine also affected the Mennonites between 1919 and 1920, and approximately 2,200 Mennonites lost their lives during these two years.)  In later years, the “Selbstschutz” was regretted by many members of the Mennonite community.

            The Mennonite church continued to suffer greatly under Stalin’s rule which began in 1924.  Gradually their freedom to practice their faith was snuffed out. In 1925, the General Conference petitioned the government for eight rights for the Mennonites which they felt critical to their survival; the appeal was denied.  In 1929, laws were introduced forbidding churches from helping one another materially and having organized meetings or events. When the Marxian philosophy was forced into schools by 1930, Mennonites could no longer educate in accordance with their faith. Teachers unwilling to adapt were exiled and the well-developed educational system fell apart.  Churches were closed down and ministers arrested and exiled.  Also, military service exemption now required an application from each individual.  Some young men who applied were imprisoned, while others who refused to participate in service were sent to forced labour camps.  Eventually, almost no exemptions were made and many were forced into regular military service.  Communism had made a direct attack on their faith and cultural practices.

            According to Stalin, communism was not a choice, and those unwilling to conform were sent to forced labour camps or exiled to remote areas of Russia, like Siberia.  The Black Raven became another terror to the Mennonites.  The term referred to black vehicles used by state police (the NKVD) during Stalin’s rule.  Families would lie awake at night in fear.  Would the knock come at their door that night?  The car would arrive in a village at night and men would be arrested, never to be seen again.  This left many homes without a father; women now had to care for their families.  In some cases, mothers would work long days on collectives, leaving young children alone at home.  In their desperation to survive, their children suffered emotional neglect and only distanced themselves from the parent they had left.  Women often minimized their difficulties and loss and they became hardened by their experiences.  The effects of their pain remained until the later years of their lives, as well as those of their children.

            Persecution during the communist years divided families as well as dispersed the Russian Mennonites across the globe.  Many had left Russia prior to the introduction of communism.  23,000 left Russia between 1922 and 1927, settling in the Americas.  In 1929, 13,000 attempted to escape, but only 5,677 succeeded. Prior to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Ukraine in 1941, nearly half of the Mennonites in Russia were sent to Siberia, forced labour camps, or uninhabited areas of the country.  Many were dispersed to Germany and the Americas again during World War 2.  Following the war, many tried to escape with the retreating German army, but Stalin ordered all the escaped Russians to be returned, so most were captured and returned to their homeland, now a prison.  After Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, no Mennonites were left in Molotschna or Chortitza, although some returned later on.  Similar to the effects of persecution in the early church of Acts, communism caused the Mennonites to be dispersed around the world.

            Communism had a direct effect on approximately 120,000 Mennonites, the majority of whom experienced loss of homes, property, and/or family members.  It also had direct effects on their church life, educational systems, and presence around the world.  Years of peace and growth were followed by years of destruction and suffering.  Communism sought to take away the identity of individuals and cultures and replace it with the identity of a “communist man.”  Although the identity of many or all Mennonites in Russia changed, for most, it did not change to a “communist man.”  Some Mennonites became stronger in their faith while others turned away and abandoned their heritage.  What communism did do was further spread the face of the Mennonite around the globe and spread its influence, especially to the Americas.  Now scattered in numerous countries were the faces of Mennonites that carried untold pain, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses.  Some opened up and shared their experiences while others remained closed.  Although church meetings did resume again in Russia in the 1950s, surely the people that met there were different from the ones who met fifty years earlier.  As of 2012, only about 3,000 Mennonites remained scattered throughout Russia, many located in Siberia.  They no longer possess the wealth or recognition they once did, but many continue to possess the faith of their forefathers.  It was a faith that remained despite persecution and the loss of all they held dear.  It was a faith that endured through the fires of communism.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Henry and Margaret: Our Love Story

Hello again Readers. I'm back. And just so you know, no, I did not continue on with my New Years' Resolution. But I have had an abundance of new experiences this year, some of which I will share in this blog. I'm married now, and my husband and I have quite an interesting story, which we took time to write while we were engaged. That is what I share here in this post, with some edits. I changed some details in my story to reflect what has taken place since I wrote it. 

Margaret's Story

Henry and my story started several years ago. We met around the time that he became a Christian, since we were part of the same church and youth group. So when I was 16. Henry went to Mexico five and a half years ago in 2010, initially to go to Bible school for three months. I was 18 at the time. When he came back, I found out he was going back to work at a rehab centre. However, during his time at home, he hosted a bonfire where he invited a bunch of youth from different churches and he asked a few people to share a devotional. I was one of those few, and the only girl he asked. This made me wonder why. And after sharing that evening, he told the people why he asked me, that he often noticed how much I had going on in my mind. I wondered at the time if he liked me. I didn't know, but I did see that Henry saw things in me that not everyone did. He saw what I had to offer and gave me opportunity to express it. I have always really appreciated that.

Time went on and although I did pray for Henry and his work in Mexico from time to time, I didn't give him too much thought otherwise. We did keep in touch via facebook from time to time though. However, in my mid to late teens, I also started praying for my future husband on a regular basis. I prayed for him, and I prayed for God to grow qualities in him that I wanted in a man. Although I don't remember everything I prayed, a few things I remember I wanted was for my husband to have a love for people, a man that I could support in ministry, and a person who was strong in the areas I was weak. One day late in 2011, close to the end of Henry's second year in Mexico, I was praying for my husband when Henry's name came to mind. And Henry fit everything I was praying for right then. That's when I started praying about the possibility of Henry being my husband, and as I thought about how our lives and personalities fit together, I felt more and more sure that it was God showing me he would one day be my husband. He came home to visit again that winter, and I was excited to see and spend time with him but nothing happened. 

The following year, now his third year working at the rehab centre, he shared with me that he felt his time at the rehab centre was coming to an end. I was looking forward to him coming home in December. He had three more months of Bible school left before he graduated, but I had just assumed that in the spring, he would come home again. I never thought he would stay in Mexico. However, that December day when we got to see each other again, I found out that he had been asked to be a youth pastor and work on the radio in Mexico, and it seemed to be God's leading. I went home and cried so hard, pleading with God for some other way. I knew he would make a great youth pastor, but I wanted so badly for Henry to be at home, and I wanted him to start a relationship with me. One of the hardest realizations for me was that Ontario was not Henry's home anymore; Mexico was. And that winter I wrestled with whether or not I was willing to go to Mexico if that's what a life with Henry would mean, and I painfully decided yes. But again he left and nothing happened. Around this time, I also determined that a man will love me best when he loves God most. If Henry was saying No to what God wanted him to do to pursue a relationship with me, then something was wrong. I had to trust that if God wanted us together, He could still make it work.

In the fall of 2013, Henry came back to Ontario again. However, it seemed that any interest I had sensed from him before wasn't there that time. I saw very little of him that time, which was disappointing. But before he left, I gave up. For about two years I had waited and prayed, I had watched him come and go, and I still didn't know how he felt about me. I couldn't hold on anymore. I stopped hoping. I stopped praying for him as my future husband. And for the first time, I was okay. 

What followed was a very difficult year where I had a lot to deal with. From the time Henry left in the fall, until July of last year while I was in NY, we had no direct communication. Then he got in touch with me again. This got me wondering again if something could still happen between us. It was just enough to get me hoping and make me feel absolutely torn when considering another possibility. And I was angry with myself that I had ever stopped praying for Henry. Henry and I chatted occasionally throughout the year. However, with no real indication that he was interested, I was ready to go back to school this year to pursue an education and career in accounting. However, when I shared this with Henry, he honestly told me he couldn't see that for me. Thinking back several years, knowing Henry had insight into me that many others didn't, and wondering if maybe there was a personal interest involved, I decided to back out. I'm very thankful now I did.

Even so, Henry didn't have plans to come back to Canada anytime soon. But in the new year we did start chatting more on Facebook. I started to notice I could expect to hear from him about once a week, then soon we started talking almost everyday. I knew this couldn't go on too long without talking about where our friendship was headed. Meanwhile I was praying fervently that Henry would talk to me about how he felt. I wanted to know and see something happen, or I wanted him to leave me alone. I also stopped praying for my future husband, and started praying more only for Henry with faith that he would one day be my husband.

At the end of March, I felt God calling me to prepare for ministry and it seemed very likely it would mean Mexico. At this time, Henry and I were getting closer and I shared this with him. The next day he told me he was thinking of coming to Canada in the summer after all. Although I got an indication from him that he was planning on spending some time with me, he didn't make his intentions clear until Easter weekend, when he told me he wanted to come and see if things could work between us. Soon we started skyping, which allowed us to see each other and talk more openly and within a few weeks he asked me to come to Mexico when he went back home in July. I wrestled with this for a few days, but agreed that I would come to Mexico with him so we could get to know each other better and I could get used to the idea of a future here. 

After being in Mexico for about five and a half years, my prince came back for me.

On June 20, Henry and I saw each other again personally for the first time in over a year and half, and we made our relationship official. On July 7, we flew back to Mexico together, where we got to know each other more, and I have been helping at the Friedensplatz children's home. On August 12, I got an idea for a poem, which I decided I wanted to save for when we got married. The next day I found out that that same evening Henry was writing a song for me. (Initially we planned to share them at our wedding, but didn't after all.)  And that next day, on August 13, after a picnic down by a little lake, he asked me to marry him. And I said yes.

We started planning a small simple wedding in Ontario in a 48 day engagement. September 30 marked the beginning of our lives, truly together, and we have made our home here in Mexico for the forseeable future.

And that's my story in a nutshell. After years of praying, tears, wrestling, surrendering, and picking my dreams up again out of the dust, those dreams have finally come true.

Henry's Story

I have known Margaret for about seven years. The first memory that I have of her is shaking her hand in church one morning. She had a really tight grip!

I remember her from youth although a relationship never crossed my mind while I was living in Canada. During my first two years in Mexico I came back to Canada for two months each year to visit after Bible school. I still had never thought about a relationship at that time. Although one thing that I did always see was that she did take her Christian walk seriously. She studied and shared openly. I noticed she was always very attentive to the things I shared when we were together with the youth or elsewhere. I could see that she took things deeper than many of the other youth did.

We kept in touch occasionally during the time that I was in Mexico. Sometimes more than others. We shared things that were going on in our lives. She went on various mission trips and did other things and I lived and worked in rehab. I still didn’t think about a relationship but I was interested to hear the things that she was going through.

The first time that a relationship had crossed my mind was about two and a half years ago. We had been talking on facebook again at that time. At the time it was just a small thought…could it be something? But one thing that crossed my mind was whether she would have any interest in Mexico or whether God was leading her life in a different direction. For me it has felt like a clear calling to stay in Mexico so it was something that I needed to know.  So I started to kind of beat around the bush and ask her certain things and talk about stuff to see kind of what her thoughts were like about Mexico. And through some of the things that we discussed it seemed that there wasn’t very much interest in coming here and maybe God was leading her life in a completely different direction. And I thought that was ok. It was just kind of a passing thought I had at that moment. No big deal. That was just what I had wanted to know. And so I put it out of my mind for the time being. (Note from Margaret: I was trying to make my interest known without being obvious. I guess it didn't work.)

But, later on that year I had visited Canada again and while I was there some family had mentioned to me that she WAS interested in me. It came as a surprise… and yet it didn’t. I hadn’t known that she liked me but as I thought about it it made sense that maybe it could be. But I didn’t want to do anything with it then because at that time I had been talking with someone else and thinking about a possible relationship (which never happened, but ended up really complicated). So I wasn’t going to start something at that time while thinking about this other girl as well. So I left it and went back to Mexico.

I had finished working at the rehab center the previous year and also graduated from the Bible school. That’s when I started a new life on the radio and youth pastoring. But at that time in my life I sunk to a place in my Christian life where I had never been before. I had had some difficulties during that year already before I went to Canada but after I had come back and through the following year (which was last year 2014) I was struggling with depression and faith. I was a depressed pastor. It was up and down with me but I did my best to try and be faithful to the youth and help them the best that I could but it was very difficult at times. And my faith was shaken throughout the year. Sometimes I would feel like I was coming out of it only to have something smack me in the face and bring me right back down. And talking with Margaret this year, it seems that she and I had both been having a really hard time during the same year and a half. I feel like maybe there were some struggles that we both needed to battle through before we could be joined together. 

I tried my best to hide my struggles from people. Some people noticed but for the most part I think I kept it hidden. But I had gotten a good friend for a roommate last year and it was really needed. I needed someone to talk to and I broke in front of him a couple of times. But it helped me a lot having him live with me. But this happened throughout the year until this year started. I spent one day a week at the Bible school again this year which really helped me again to revive and be strengthened spiritually.

I still struggle even now to get completely out of the pit that I was in. I have gained much strength this year already but I still have a ways to go to get back into shape spiritually and ministering more again. I think that maybe I have been broken and reshaped. Things are different and I am still working through the pain of the reshaping.

Coming back to Margaret. We started talking again the end of last year and more coming into this year. We shared things and I liked reading her blogs of new experiences. I started to think about whether a relationship was something that could happen. I didn’t know. It was hard trying to determine things from 3000 kms away. But I do remember reading one of her blogs one day in which she poured her heart out about no one being hopeless to Jesus. That article really did a number on me. It was actually a big turn on. I thought about the struggles that I had gone through the year and a half before and I thought to myself that I needed someone like her in my life to help me and support me while I was also struggling. Someone that I could trust. Someone that loved Jesus and would help me build up my faith again. I know I’m supposed to lead but sometimes a broken leader needs a helper to get back up.

I had thought about stopping my work on the radio and things I was doing earlier this year but everything in me just wouldn’t give me peace about leaving. I couldn’t help but think I was running away from the place that God put me if I left. So I decided I would stay. And I started thinking about the things that God had lead me to do and when I looked at everything it just seemed like Margaret was one person that would fit. End of March I decided that I would fly back to Canada for 2 weeks just to kind of hang around and observe Margaret so to speak. I had mentioned to her that I was coming, but not that the reason was her… until a couple of weeks later. So finally in April we started talking more about us and a potential relationship but I didn’t like texting. That’s when we decided to start skyping. She was the first and only person I have ever skyped with. But doing that helped make a lot of things clearer.

We started skyping every day and eventually made plans that she would come here for the summer with me. Things haven’t always gone smoothly and we’ve had to learn how to communicate to each and be open about things. But learning that has brought our relationship a lot further. We’ve talked about difficult things but after each one was done we became stronger as a couple and our love has grown deeper. It’s getting harder to spend time apart but, Lord willing, soon we won’t have to.

I’ve realized that we have both come out of a period of distress and weakness in our lives and both needed to come to a place of refreshing and strengthening. Maybe God had his purpose in it being that way. Maybe this way we can both be built up into a new life together. 

Our Wedding

We had a small, simple wedding in Ontario on September 30 and then we honeymooned through the U.S. back to Mexico, making stops at the Creation Museum, Southern Grace Bed and Breakfast, and Pigeon Forge, Tennesee. And now I'm settling into life as a housewife in Mexico.

Wedding Photo Credits go to Heidi A. Photography

Friday, 15 May 2015

What Did I Do?: New Accomplishments

The last couple weeks have once again been a busy flurry of activity. I am happy to say that, aside from a few finishing touches, the redecorating in my room is completed and it's reorganized. It's imperfect like I am, but I'm happy to call it home. That means I'm slowly able to return to everyday life again, although it's filled with catching up on a lot of things that have been left behind.

April 30: I tried making myself a smoothie using kefir instead of yogurt. This eliminates the need to add juice or almond milk to thin it out. I discovered that mango, banana, pineapple, and mango coconut kefir makes for a delicious combination.

May 1: Do not attempt to work with wood stain without using gloves. However, if you do try this, and get upset like I did trying to wash it off, scrub your hands and fingers with olive oil. That works to clean them.

May 2: pedagogical: "of or relating to teachers or education."

May 3: Emmer is a type of wheat, as I learned in my devotions in the morning. I also had questions for my mom about how colonies are divided in Mexico, trying to understand names of places and how they relate to each other.

May 4: I recently started reading a great book called Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by Compassion International's President Dr. Wess Stafford. It has been teaching me so much about African culture, and is giving me a very different perspective on children. It's a book I would highly recommend.

On May 4, I read about the author's childhood in the village of Nielle in West Africa, and how they hunted baboons:

"Tradition dictated that the smallest child involved in the hunt got the most delicate part of the beast--the hands. In fact, it was a great honor; the little guy would sit there proudly chewing on a hand that looked just like his own except bigger and now roasted over the fire." Dr. Wess Stafford, Too Small to Ignore

May 5: Seeing as it was Cinco de Mayo, I learned that the holiday celebrates the Day of the Battle of Puebla, which occurred on May 5, 1862. It's observed by Mexicans and Americans.

I learned something else I didn't intend to learn. It's what happens when a grease trap is full. Yuck. And I didn't even know we had such a thing at work!

May 6: Back to Too Small to Ignore, I learned how different the culture in Nielle, West Africa treated certain human activities than we do in North America. Bathing, defecation, and nursing babies were done openly. Rather than covering up, it was each person's responsibility to protect the dignity of others.

I also learned a little about the pentatonic scale, which uses only five notes per octave. The hymn "Amazing Grace" is written using only the pentatonic scale.

May 7: I mounted a curtain rod above the window in my room. This took a whole lot longer than it should have, as I read the instructions over and over, and measured over and over. But I wanted to be sure to do the job right.

May 8: I was proud of myself last Friday at swim class! I swam backstroke the whole length of the pool, from shallow to deep end! That meant for "chillaxing" and gloating a little bit, before I attempted to swim back front crawl. That attempt didn't get very far. I'm still getting used to the deep end, where I can't just stand up if I panic and sink. I also found pink heart-shaped sunglasses in a shoe store and tried them on. :)

May 9: On Saturday, I starting reading the Bible in Low German, which I also learned in the last couple weeks is now an official language! It takes some getting used to the written language. And I have realized quickly that I have a very limited vocabulary in my mother tongue.

May 10: riparian: "of or on the bank of a watercourse."

I also heard a story about a girl who planted a seed and grew a 40 pound cabbage, which she donated to a soup kitchen. This inspired planting a garden and using the produce to feed the homeless. You can read more about her story at Katie's Krops. Children can make a difference!

May 11: technobabble: "technical jargon."

May 12: I learned how to ride a lawn mower. I know this may sound pathetic, that I had never ridden a lawn mower before, but as far as I can recall, I hadn't. It was actually really intimidating for me, but I braved learning something else new.

May 13: On Wednesday afternoon, I had the task of mounting a towel bar on a kitchen cabinet beside the kitchen sink. This sounds easy, but it was awkward to figure out how to position myself to get the control I needed with a drill. The solution? Climb up and sit on the divider of the kitchen sink, with my feet in the sink! The job can be done much easier now!

I also learned that a solopreneur is "a business owner who works and runs their business alone."

So, that recaps the last two weeks! It doesn't seem very exciting, but I did try things I would typically avoid or like to pass on to someone else.

Friday, 1 May 2015

What Did I Do?: Two Weeks Fast

Busy life continues so I'm summing up two weeks for my readers very fast.

April 16: I tried an insanity cardio workout, tried doing some crazy thing with my cheeks, and learned that tomatoes will stain countertops if you leave them sitting there for awhile. Oops. But I'm wondering if I learned that last one on April 17th, because I don't have anything written down for that day. And I don't remember.

April 17: I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I failed. I don't know.

April 18: I ate key lime greek yogurt straight out of the tub. This is what happens when I'm really hungry and in need of a break. I ate my first fresh cut fries this year. Also, Jonathon Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables died.

April 19: I tried a new chest and tricep workout, learned how to play "Be Unto Your Name" on my flute, and worked on Christina Perri's "One Thousand Years".

April 20: I learned the "Pepsi, Coke, 7 Up" breathing technique in swim class, so now I know what that's all about and it makes breathing a lot easier. I also visited some friends and had some of the best homemade chocolate ever!

April 21: I tried a chocolate banana cookie and endeavoured to clean and unclog a Nescafe beverage
machine with next to no idea what I was doing.

April 22: I ate garlic bread for breakfast. And I tried a little bit of mudding.

April 23: It was World Book Day, and I tried Pollo Asado. Yummy.

April 24: I learned what a crane fly was and tried sauerkraut on my smoked sausage bun. There's a first time for everything, and that was also a last.

April 25: Lissome means "nimble or easily flexed".

April 26: Rococo is a hilarious work and it means "excessively ornate or intricate."

April 27: I tried using pull buoys in swim class to isolate my stroke. This was interesting and took some getting used to. It did help me deal with what to do when I flip over in the water.

April 28: I tried kefir for the first time. I wasn't quite brave enough for plain kefir, so I bought a mango coconut flavour. I drank a little straight and this would certainly take a little getting used to. A lot of stuff that's good for me does.

April 29: I tried the Cherrios Effect. It doesn't work in almond milk. If anything, the cherrios repel each other. They do gravitate to each other in regular dairy milk, but it takes patience. And a little nudging and encouragement, cause I don't have that much patience. And enough milk in the bowl to make sure they really float.

The End.