When My Family Needed a Food Hamper


food hamper1There have been two times in my life when I’ve been the recipient of a food hamper. Both times, we were in dire financial situations and we needed the help. It’s not an easy thing to accept. I wanted more than anything not to need it. I wanted to be able to run to the grocery store and pick up what we required on our own dime. How did it make me feel? Pathetic, ashamed, depressed. Poverty sucks your energy like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

This time of year, there is special attention paid to giving to those in need and supplying organizations that put together food hampers. My experience as a recipient makes me carefully consider what I drop into the food bank bin and I hope, after reading this, you will too.

Among some, there seems to be this “beggars can’t be choosers” or “they should be happy with whatever they get” attitude. Of course, people are happy to get food. We were thankful for everything we received and for the generous people who gave it. But, I’ve learned that we shouldn’t just toss whatever is cheap into the bin. Can you imagine living on Kraft Dinner or Mr. Noodle? As givers we are looking after the nutritional needs of others, more often than not, those recipients are children. Just as I wouldn’t want to feed my children KD at every meal because it isn’t good for them, the poor don’t want to either. They want their children, and themselves, to be healthy.

People going through tough financial times still need protein and fruits and vegetables just like everyone else. Some needing food hampers are elderly with reduced sodium diets and diabetics in need of lower carbohydrate meals. Often the food we throw into the bin aggravates these conditions.

Ask yourself, if you were receiving this hamper, what would you hope to get to feed your family? Or contact your local food bank and ask what items they need most. This Christmas, I encourage your generosity. You could be helping a family just like mine.



A Word from the Emotionally Constipated

I was lying on the hospital bed exhausted, feeling disembowelled. I felt like I was three stories off the ground. As the doctor suctioned the baby he said, “She’s biting me,” and in my Demerol induced stupor I imagined my baby with razor-sharp little teeth. What did I give birth to? And then the doctor asked me joyfully, “Do you want to hold your baby.”

I said, “No.”

That wasn’t the way I’d imagined reacting to the birth of my first child. In movies women always cried with joy. Not me. I watched my husband walk the floor with her and name her when the doctor asked.

I’ve learned that I don’t usually react the way I think I should, or the way others think I should to exciting situations. I think of it as emotional constipation.

So when I got the call that the proof for my book was in, I excitedly drove over to see it. In the spring of 2015, it will have been five years since I wrote it. The subsequent years were spent revising and then giving up on it for a period of time and hiding it in folder called, “Completed Manuscripts.” It hid there with the others.

So how did I react upon seeing the product of five years of work? I was reluctant to hold it, but took it anyway. I turned it over in my hands, read a few words. Yep, my words. Weird. So weird. I’m still feeling weird about the whole thing. Am I so used to striving after something and not getting it, that I don’t know what to do when I get it?  I mean, five years of critique and rejection and work, work, work. I can’t process that it’s over (for that manuscript at least). I want to be jumping up and down with excitement. I don’t want to think about how the dream looked when I first formed it in my mind because logically I know those were pie in the sky dreams, but I’m also having to get over a sense of failure that I didn’t achieve that old vision.

A week after my daughter was born, I caught sight of myself in a mirror, holding my little girl. It finally hit me–this is my baby.  So I’m waiting for this to hit me too–to finally get to take some joy in my first  published novel.

Loving My Cover

I wrote Enslavement, a YA sci-fi novel, over four years ago and I’m so excited that it’s finally getting published. Over that past months I’ve been working intensely with the Rebelight Publishing editors to get Enslavement whipped into shape.

Recently, I got the go-ahead to share the cover. This makes it seem so real. This. Is. Really. Happening. I was nervous to see the cover (what if I didn’t like it), but I was stunned by how much I loved it. What’s it about? Read on.

Book Cover“One World. One Currency. One Bright Future.”

That’s the promise made by OneEarth Bank after a global economic collapse–but only for those who accept the insertion of a commerce chip.

When Rielle’s parents refuse to comply, government officials tear her family apart. As punishment for her parent’s crimes, Rielle is forced into a Community Service Contract–a legalized form of slavery–and sold to a wealthy, abusive banker.

The Banker’s secrets hold the key to Rielle’s freedom, but will she risk prison or even death to escape and search for her family?

Enslavement is a work of YA sci-fi/dystopian.

Performing the Lick Test

badlandsWhen you’re fossil hunting (because you fossil hunt all the time) do you know how to distinguish between a rock and a bone?

I hate to flaunt my knowledge here, but I’m about to tell you.

You lick it. Not really a lick, more like a tongue dab.  The bone absorbs the moisture from your tongue and will cling it. Rocks don’t stick to your tongue.

RIMG0796We took a trip to the Black Hills this summer and on our way back home we took a detour through the Badlands. There, we came across a park ranger giving a lecture on the fossils found in the area. He said we too could go fossil hunting and told us about the lick test. He held up specimens found by tourists just like us. He reminded us repeatedly, “find, photograph, report.” Don’t take them home! Find. Photograph. Report. Got it.

I was a little excited. I reminded myself to stay calm. I casually strolled downRIMG0808 the path. Just lookin’ for some fossils. No big deal.

I picked through rocks, scanned mounds. And then I found it! Something. I don’t know what it was. It couldn’t be a rock. Only one way to find out. Lick it!

As it turns out it was a rock. And the next one was too. I licked half a dozen rocks.

But, then I hit the mother load. This had to be a bone. It was rounded weird. If I had to guess, I’d say a Coccyx of some sort (I took Anatomy and Physiology). I performed the lick test. I got stickage! A fossil. I found a fossil. Find. Check.

I waved my husband over to document my find. He asked, “Did you lick it?”

RIMG0828“You know I did.” He snapped the picture. Photograph. Check.

Oh, it would have fit so nicely in my pocket. My fossil. My ten thousand year old Coccyx. My cute little Coccyx.

Don’t worry. I didn’t rob mankind of earth’s history. I resisted temptation. I put it back where I found it. It’s still there. I told the park ranger about my find. Report. Check.:(

Sigh. Some other tourist is probably licking it right now.

This is coprolite--fossilized poop. I did not lick this one.

This is coprolite–fossilized poop. I did not lick this one.



That I’m-Going-To-Throw-Up Feeling

Okay, so I’m the worst blogger in the world. But, this time I have a really good excuse for not blogging. Really, I do.

You know that I’m-going-to-throw-up feeling you get when it finally occurs to you that something big is happening. I’m a master of denial, so there’s always this huge gap between when I find out something is happening and when it actually hits me that it’s happening.

So, I finally have a publisher for my book and I’ve spent my summer slogging through edits with Rebelight Publishing. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been hard and rewarding and exhausting and exhilarating.

But, I had serious doubts as to whether they were actually going to go through with it. I really thought they’d get to a point and say to themselves, “She’s hopeless. We can’t possibly publish this.” I maintained this doubt until last Thursday.

Then, as I’m driving down the road, it suddenly hits me. Oh. My. Gosh. My book is getting published. After years of rejections and disappointment, it’s actually getting published. Cue the I’m-going-to-throw-up feeling. I considered pulling over and making use of the Plessis road ditch several times.

I managed to keep my dinner down, but I’m still in this panic laced euphoria. This is actually happening.

My Nuclear Freak-out

Blogging has been tough lately. I usually blog about what’s on my mind, but lately what’s on my mind has been a series of secrets. Yep, stuff I can’t share. So, with those things so consuming my thoughts, my mind’s drawn a big fat zilch when it comes to blog ideas.

But, last night on Facebook secret #1 went public.

There are many questions that plague mankind—whether the chicken or the egg came first, whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons, how the fourth season of Arrested Development could suck that bad.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had an answer to one profound question: How would I react, if say, my daughter got engaged a couple weeks before her high school graduation?

Now I know.

I totally freak out. Not on the outside, on the inside. On the outside I’m calm. On the inside I’m Ivy Mike (the codename given to the first full-scale test of a fusion nuclear bomb). Ivy Mike vaporized an island. Wiped it off the face of the Earth. Not literally because it probably ended up in the upper atmosphere and fell as rain all over the world. Kind of poetic in a sick, destructive kind of way.

The end.

I know that’s no way to end a blog post. There’s no closure, but that’s how it is. I don’t have grand advice. No epiphanies. I’m still kind of freaking out, but I’m trying to do it in a supportive and encouraging fashion.

Maybe by the time I post next, secret #2 will have gone public too.

Health Talks with Nurse Irene: Providing Help for Marginalized Women

Some news stories are so horrific that you just can’t let them go. One in particular has stayed with me—The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia–women drugged, stolen from their homes in the night, raped, then returned to their beds. And this is just one of the many struggles facing the women in the Mennonite colonies in Bolivia.

These are women without a voice, considered more property than people. Because of a language barrier (they speak Low German in a Spanish speaking country) and the control the men in the colony exert, they have limited access to health care or even to basic health information. Can you imagine not understanding the impact simple hand washing can have on your health and the health of your children? Can you imagine watching your sick child suffer and having no understanding of how to help them?

As a mother, a wife, a woman my heart aches for them, which is why I want to share Irene Marsch’s story, in her own words, with you. Can one person make a difference? Read on and find out.


“Health Talks with Nurse Irene”

By Irene Marsch

 Where did it all start?

I call it: “A big God, taking Irene size steps.” It’s a way of remembering that God is walking with me.Irene2

After my husband’s passing, I hurt. I felt very alone. I was searching. It seemed like everyone else around me knew what the role of a widow was. But I was confused. I felt lost and I asked, Lord what now?

In my search, I signed up for the Women Alive Conference in Toronto. Weeks before the conference, I woke one night and the first thought that came to mind was, “For such a time as this.” I remember thinking, it was from the book of Esther and then I went back to sleep. My first thought waking up that morning was again, “For such a time as this.” I went about making breakfast and again the words rang in my head, “For such a time as this.”

In my walk with the Lord, I have come to learn, that when I get three nudges, I drop what I’m doing and go. Make that phone call. Write that note or lookup that Bible verse. And that is what I did. I read the account of Uncle Mordecai telling his niece Esther that this was a special time and God had a special purpose in sending her to the king’s palace. God called Queen Esther to step out, to step up, and to speak out on behalf of her people. I brushed it away and said, “There is just nothing royal about widowhood!” And I left it at that.

Irene3When I finally got to go to the conference, the guest speaker stood before us and revealed her theme verse? I couldn’t believe it. The verse from Esther. “For such a time as this.” To say the least, I was crushed. In my mind I shouted, “Can I not get away from this Bible verse?”

Apparently not. By the afternoon I was participating in a brief exercise on seeking God’s will through a simple questionnaire.

Who am I? Well, Irene a widow, I answered.

What are your gifts? Nursing, caregiver, organizer.

What is unique about you? I speak Low German, some Spanish, German, English.

It was into this noise of questions, that I remembered the Low German Ministry at FLN. (Family Life Network) I came home from the conference, trying very hard to push it all out of my mind, but that did not work. I finally said, “Okay, I will dust off my resume!” AfterIrene4 receiving some much needed help with my resume, I sent it off to FLN. This was the beginning of “Health Talks with Nurse Irene”.

There are many more moments of “A big God, taking Irene size steps” that have given me affirmation along the way. A week or so before I left for Bolivia, Claude Pratte saw me at church, probably sensing my apprehension, he said, “You will see that God, has gone ahead of you.” A day or two after my arrival in Bolivia I received an invitation to be part of the Women of Hope office in the Santa Cruz market area. Claude’s words, “You will see God has gone ahead of you,” made it easy for me to say yes. I thanked the Lord once again for being a big God, taking Irene size steps .

Every week I spent two to three days at this office, two days at the Women’s Shelter, and reserved one day for Women’s Ministry in the Mennonite Irene5Colonies. It was during the last week, before returning to Canada, that one lady approached me and said, “Can you come to our colony and do one of those Health Talks. I don’t know what to say to you. There could be two or 102 women.”

I had a hard time deciding, but then I was able to say, “Yes Lord, I will go for the sake of two.” When we got there, there were closer to a 102 women. Once again, a big God taking Irene size steps. I encouraged the ladies to stop me and ask question, but no one did, because they were so shy. So I offered to have a few one-on-one conversations and immediately a long line-up formed. The sun was going down and we needed to get out of the colony. It was during these last minutes that a couple of ladies came and asked, if I would record my talk on hormones and send it to them, so that they could give it to other ladies. I’d never considered recording my talks until that moment. After that conversation I approached FLN with the idea of making CDs to send to the woman. They offered me a radio program as well as the opportunity to make the requested CDs.

I spent six months in Bolivia on my missions assignment with the E-Free Mission. It was a very good and very necessary experience for me to learn firsthand about the health needs in Bolivia.Irene6

I’m pleased to say that the CD on hormones and one on STDs have been completed. The second CD, the one on STDs, I found very difficult to do—such a forbidden topic. On this CD I covered eight of the most common STD Health Issues. Each track has some scripture verses on marriage. I share a few thoughts or tell a short story out of my marriage to Roland and a short prayer. I know these people love to learn from personal stories.

Another, A big God, taking Irene size steps is the morning I was invited by FLN to talk about whether I would consider another year of “Health Talks with Nurse Irene” on the radio. In my mind, I was ready to listen and decide later, until I had my morning devotions and read the following verse: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8) I was shocked by the direct words and the timing. The second phrase, “I know that you have little strength,” touched me deeply. God knows my weakness and he given me an open door.

Irene1Yes, there is much work ahead, but a Big God, continues to take Irene size steps. It is affirming, humbling and even scary, how the Lord is there just at the right time—like when it was time to pay for the cost of making the CDs at FLN and our church came through and took care of that cost. And when I received four invitations into the Colonies for Health Talk Sessions on my Follow-up visit and an invitation to use the same office in the Santa Cruz Market area, where I’LL have a chance to meet women from remote and closed Mennonite Colonies.

In spite of our weakness, God chooses to do his work through us. May it be an encouragement to all of us, that A Big God is taking our size steps, to be at our side in our everyday life! Thank you.

On May 14 Irene leaves for Bolivia with 600 CDs in tow!