Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Power of a Hug

So I've been mulling this over for awhile....and I even wrote the idea for this blog a few weeks ago on a grocery list and I've had to hold onto that outdated grocery list ever since.  I finally have a nice quiet morning to sit online and I really want to throw out that piece of paper today, so here I am blogging.  I've shared with a few people the awkwardness of moving back to Canada and trying to figure out greetings again.  In Venezuela I'm used to greeting people with a quick kiss to the cheek....well, more of an "air kiss"....and if it's a friend, that's usually followed by a hug. Of course, coming back to Canada, there's no better way to alienate people than by going around kissing and hugging everyone.  Now I'm confused; do I hug? Shake hands? Do nothing?  When I was talking about this with a friend, they mentioned to me that they felt people don't even shake hands very much anymore.  And I think that might be true, I've had my fair share of awkward, limp, half-hearted handshakes in the the past 4 months. Have I already been in Canada for 4 months????

Two of my best hugging stories came to mind and I thought I'd share them.

A few years ago while I was living in Costa Rica and going to Spanish language school, I went downtown San Jose with a friend, John.  As we walked, we came across a group of people holding "free hug" signs.  Some people were walking a wide circle around the group to avoid a hug, but I just decided that I needed a hug that day and went for it.  I didn't know the guy who hugged me but it was still incredible how great I felt afterwards!  A hug between strangers is a hug in it's pure and simplest form; there is no baggage, no grudges, no history between the two people. And there was something about that hug that was just so awesome.  I think John refused to hug a stranger at first, but as I remember, on our way back, he took the plunge and enjoyed a wonderfully awkward hug too.

Earlier this month I went to Drayton Valley and got to hang out with some of my fave people in the world, the Haazens.  Tanneal and I went shopping one night (yes, in on the edge) and while we were in the grocery store (yes, the grocery on the edge) a little girl with Down Syndrome, probably around 6 or 7 years old gave us a cheery "Hi!!!!" and lunged towards Tanneal going in for a hug.  Her Dad quickly pulled her back and apologized but Tanneal in her awesomeness asked, "Would you like a hug?" while she put the shopping basket down and opened up her arms. While she was getting her hug, I found myself secretly hoping that this girl was feeling generous and I would get to enjoy one as well.  She didn't disappoint!  After the hug-fest, her dad just said "thank you" and we went on our way, smiling.

So, I don't have any big conclusion about these two simple hugs.  I'm sure you can draw your own.  But I will ask, why as adults have we become so stingy with our hugs?  Do you think we are losing the art of hugging?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dreaming of a White Christmas...and hallacas.

As many of you know, I'm now back in Cold Lake, Alberta for my home assignment year.  It's been interesting getting used to being back for more than a week or two of holiday!  The local Walmart and Canadian Tire stores are still quite overwhelming but I'm definitely loving the short amount of time it takes to get around town!  It was a beautiful fall, and it was great to enjoy my first fall season in 4 years!  However, fall leads to winter and winter leads to snow.  There has been snow here for a week or two now and I'm getting re-acquainted with shoveling and  scraping car windows...Winter has lost a bit of it's romanticism for me!  I do look forward to celebrating Christmas with snow, and I pulled out my decorations yesterday in hopes of getting some decorating done this coming week.

Sometimes I look through the Venezuelan news headlines, and this one caught my eye today:  A group of women made the world's largest hallaca!  This is like a tamale, filled with marinated  chicken, beef, pork, as well as raisins, olives, capers etc...every family has their own special recipe.   Around Christmas families make them in large batches and pass them out to neighbours and friends.  It's a delicious tradition!  I was able to make a batch with friends in Venezuela a few years ago...maybe I need to dig those photos out because it was quite the process!  If anyone knows of Venezuelan-Canadians nearby who make them, be sure to let me know!!! :)

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Good news for the week:  we got our cedulas as well as the ID needed to sell our vehicles!  Thank you so much for praying!! Our paperwork is now all in place and the last few hurdles to jump are packing, moving my belongings to the Hieberts, Meetup group tomorrow, arranging to sell my car, a bit of last minute shopping and finally getting on the plane on Friday.  Still feels like a mountain of thing to do, but I'm thankful for a quiet day today to work on it.

Of course, I love all things 80's ESPECIALLY hair bands so you will forgive me for posting the following video that came to mind while I was writing this.  What would the day be without some cheeziness from Kelly?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Not an early bird, but I caught the worm.

It's been a find-a-worm-in-your-mango kind of week.  No, I took a nice big bite then saw a worm meandering through the mango.  Thankfully, I hadn't swallowed yet! Blaaaaeeech.  Right now this transition phase is a bit of a beast, it's tiring, it's a rollercoaster.  But there are bright spots, and I'm thankful for teammates, family, and friends here and back in Canada who are walking with me through these crazy days, worms and all!

My great news for the week is that yesterday our passports were delivered back to us, with our visas stamped inside!! Woohooo!!!!!! Thank you to everyone who has been praying for this to happen!! That means that I am one step closer to home assignment.  My flights are booked and although there are still a few things to be done here (renew my identification card, arrange to sell my car etc) I can *almost* allow myself to get excited to travel.  Things are never set in stone here and plans can change in an instant so now we are praying that everything else falls into place in the next two weeks and also that with all the problems surrounding airlines in Venezuela, our flights from Caracas to Panama City will remain secure. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go inspect the rest of my fruit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Visa Update

Just an update on the visa situation for those who are curious... I was able to renew my passport at lightning speed and got the new one in only one week! Today we were able to submit our paperwork to renew our visas.  I have a temporary visa for Venezuela, which means that I have to renew it every year, but the positive side to it is that I don't have to leave the country every 90 days like you would on a tourist visa.  I need to renew my visa before I leave the country for home assignment in Canada, because it was a pain in the rear to get in the first place and I sure don't want to lose it now!!  So now we wait for word on how long it will be, my hope is that it will be ready in under 2 weeks.  Right now we are sitting at just under 4 weeks until departure so it would really be great if God would speed up the hands that are dealing with our papers and passports!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Immigration Officers Gone Wild

It's been a bit of a stressful week for me here in Caracas....It's that time of year again, when I make the trek to the immigration office to renew my visa (which usually turns into 4 or 5 treks).  My last trip to the office yesterday included an officer who had no interest in answering any of my questions, who yelled at me (because he didn't understand what I was asking), and who walked away from me while I was still asking questions. I followed him out as he left the office, and he started yelling at another lady who had obviously been waiting to talk to him. I know that the Angers have also had some run-ins with him while they have been waiting for their ID cards but thankfully God gave me an extra helping of grace as I walked back to my car. It's been a rollercoaster, as we are still learning how things work here when it comes to our documents as foreigners but I'm thankful that it looks like things will work out so that I can arrive in Canada in August.  Would you please pray for these specific things:
-I will go to the Canadian Embassy tomorrow (Friday) to renew my passport.  I tried doing it today but I didn't quite arrive in time.  Oops! Story of my life!
-July 15 I will submit my paperwork for my Venezuelan visa renewal
-Whenever the visa is completed, I will submit my application for renewal of my Venezuelan ID card.  Will the paperwork and wallet size photos ever end???
-In the meantime I will attempt to book a flight back to Canada.  Flights out of Caracas are a little scarce these days, but I should be able to get a flight through Panama.  Dunkin' Donuts time!!!

Please pray all these things fall into place, along with the usual craziness of packing my house up and putting things into storage.  I will keep y'all posted!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


So, my favourite worship band right now is "En Espiritu y En Verdad" and they are from Spain.  Obviously I listen to more Spanish worship these days compared to English....but I suppose that is a part of being separated from the North American worship culture.  I'm just not up to date on what people up north are listening to!  But this is a great band, and I'd like to think that even if I didn't speak Spanish, I'd still enjoy listening to them.  Just thought I'd share a great song that I'm enjoying these days.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I was going to title this post "Meet the Team"...but then the Flintstones theme started running in my head; "Flintstones, meet the Flintstones.....".  But what is done is done and I suppose I'll be singing that song for the rest of the day.  But I do want to share the most up-to-date photo of our team, and you will notice that we have gained 4 people!  The Angers family joined us here in Caracas recently and we are enjoying getting to know them!  Martin and Nadia have come all the way from Quebec, and have had Venezuela on their hearts for many years.  They have 4 children, 2 have also joined us here in Caracas; Eliana and Jean-Samuel.  On the right side of the photo is the Hiebert Family; Chris, Angela, Mackenzie (R) and Lukas (L).  And I am stuck in the middle, a great place to be with these 2 families who are my family here in Venezuela.  While the Hieberts and I head back to Canada for the next year, the Angers will be "holding down the fort" here in Caracas and continuing with their Spanish language learning and getting to know Caracas and the Venezuelan culture.  Please pray for them as they continue to settle into life here.  And thank you for your continued prayers for the Hieberts and myself as we pack up and put into storage all our earthly trinkets and treasures and prepare for our trip back in August.  I don't have a firm date yet for my arrival, but as plans come together I will keep everyone posted!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Oh the Weekend....

I often find that weekends are the busiest time of the week for me.  During the weekdays, I'm usually at home trying to get some reading done, answering those elusive emails (oh...sorry to those who are still waiting!), grocery shopping, meeting/prayer with our team, trying to do some organizing and planning for home assignment, and other various "stuff"'s different every week.  But come the weekend, I'm not home very much!  This past Friday, we had a team meeting at the Hieberts' house, then I went out for supper with the Angers, the new family who has joined our team here in Caracas.  It was a great opportunity to just spend some "fun" time with them.  Saturday morning I was up and drove over to Altamira in the rain to meet up with the English conversation group I'm a part of.  It's always great, and as usual, what is planned for 2 hours together turned into about 6 hours together!  We met under a big tent at the park in the rain, crashing the group having cuatro lessons (Venezuela's national instrument), then walked to a restaurant for lunch, and finished the afternoon at the square in Los Palos Grandes for a music festival.  I did take a short video (see below) of a Venezuelan drum group, but the quality and sound are not great.  Although we do spend a few hours in English, the second half of our time together is usually in Spanish, which helps me in my own language learning.  Sunday I was up early (for me!), on my way to pick up the Hiebert family to head to Chuao Alliance Church for a visit, but my car broke down on the way.  Actually I didn't realize my car died right away, as it happened while I was driving down a hill.  When I went to give some gas, I realized nothing was happening!  I was able to pull over safely at a gas station and stop before I lost all the power steering.  A few hours later, I was towed to the Hieberts and although we missed church, it turned into a nice afternoon watching the Lego movie together and going for lunch at our favourite pasta place.  But the stress of the car and the busyness of the weekend finally caught up with me last night and at 9:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open....and I will admit, I slept for 11 hours last night!  I'm thankful for my weekends; although I always end them exhausted, they also fill my heart up!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Missionary Bio: Dr. William Leslie

If you like reading missionary bios, here's a short one that I read today of a Canadian-born missionary who worked in the DRC.  Thankful for the encouragement gleaned from the pioneers.

Click HERE to read the bio!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Welcome Back, Transition

Well, I have been silent here for a little too long I guess.  **Hello? Anyone still out there reading this?** Over these last few month, with the unrest here in Venezuela, I've had a hard time figuring out just how to process and share my I just didn't. People have asked me lately if things are "back to normal" here.  My knee-jerk reaction is to say "NO!!" but then I realized that although there isn't as much happening as a few months ago, we have settled into a "new normal". That doesn't mean that that the protests, blockades, and tear-gas have stopped; they still continue on in a few concentrated areas.  But we are learning how to continue on with life and work around things.  I have never felt in danger, but I have been slightly panicked a few times trying to find my way back to my house when roads have been blocked...for those of you who know how directionally challenged I am, you will now be amazed that I even made it home at all!!  Maybe with some time I'll be able to return and articulate these last few months a little better, but at the moment I'm going to let it be, I hope you understand.  BUT there has been lots going on here, lots of travelling, lots of visitors and new teammates arriving!  I really need to pull together a newsletter and fill in the details, but just know that although it's been a trying few months, there has been so much richness and blessing in the midst of it! 

One detail I'm happy to share today, is that I will be coming back to Canada for home assignment sooner than I thought!  I originally thought I would be arriving in time for Christmas later this year, but after discussion with and agreement from leadership, I will be arriving in just a couple of short months...probably right at the beginning of August.  My home assignment will be a year long, and I'm really looking forward to connecting with friends and family, and visiting churches and supporters who have been my prayer and financial supporters, encouragers, and all-round cheerleaders over the past 4 years.  FOUR YEARS, people! How can the time pass so quickly?  While I'm excited to return to Canada, my heart is also breaking at the thought of leaving Venezuela.  Friends, favourite places...and the WARM CLIMATE make leaving very hard, so I would be thankful for your prayers over these next few months and if you are brave enough, a shoulder to cry on when I arrive back in the north!

vota, ora (vote, pray)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Prayer Request

Hello everyone and greetings from Caracas!  Today I'm just posting a short message to remind you to pray for Venezuela today and in the coming week.  Since Wednesday there have been protests happening all over the country, and here in Caracas as well.  It is a very complicated situation as feelings run deep between the two polarized political leanings in the country.  Here in Caracas there was some violence on Wed, but more or less things have remained peaceful since then with only some isolated incidents.  The protests continue today; please pray that things will continue peacefully, and for safety for the young people of Venezuela...this started out as student protests.  Above all, pray that somehow Christ would reveal himself, and that Venezuelans and our friends here in Caracas would recognize that it is only Christ who can overcome the insecurity here and bring true freedom to this country.  We trust He is already working.  Thanks for your support, love, and prayers!


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

My Yes-olutions

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.  Haven’t for at least 10 years I’m sure.  There is something about making a promise that you know you will probably break come February.  Or worse yet, January 2.  So why am I feeling so inspired to make “resolutions” (I really don’t like that word) today?   I guess it’s all the talk on Facebook and Twitter about fresh starts, and new beginnings.  Good ol' January 1.  Or maybe my perspective has changed in the last month.  I’ve realized that  I’m in my final 11-or-so months of ministry here in Caracas before I head to Canada for home assignment (ie: furlough if you’re old-school), and I really want to make the best of this time because I know it will go by super-fast.  And I want to land in Canada content to just be me and be where I am….not like a plane heading down for a crash landing, a wounded soldier dragging himself on one arm or a figure skater who’s quadruple jump has gone horribly, horribly wrong.  I think this next year is going to determine how I land in Canada.  But I want to make something different than a resolution…I want to concentrate on just being open, to saying “yes” to a few key things.  My “yes-olutions”, if you will.  I’m aware that I’ve just made up a cheezy  word.  I’m ok with that, I hope you are too.  So prepare yourselves my friends, here are my 2014 “yes-olutions”…

-Yes to what God wants to do in and through me. Yes to making this my posture 365 days a year.

-Yes to the awkwardness of new friendships, and yes to the sadness of knowing I will have to say goodbye soon too.

-Yes to recognizing my highs and lows.  My wins and losses.  Yes to telling someone about them in my journal, blog, or the dreaded Facebook.  Ya, I’m still saying yes to Facebook.

-Yes to feeding my brain.  I don’t take as much time as I should to just spend time learning.  Or thinking.  Have you ever sat and just thought in silence for an hour?  It’s the best.

-Yes to exploration. My neighbourhood.  Caracas.  Venezuela. Canada. That cupboard outside on my patio that I’m afraid to open for fear of what might be inside.

I think I’ll stop there before I get carried away and start saying yes to gelato every other day, because honestly, that’s a real temptation.  Thanks for reading and I guess I’ll just end by encouraging you to think about what YOU will say “yes” to this year….

 Will I say "yes" to opening this cupboard this year?