On the Last Day of My Twenties

Today is the last day of my (Helen’s) twenties. Tomorrow I turn thirty! As I think back on the last decade, I’m reminded of some incredible milestones, and I’m thankful.

  1. At the age of twenty-one, I came to know Jesus. I’d grown up going to church, but had never realized that God wants relationship, not just prayers before bed and church attendance on Sunday. God showed me that life is meant to be lived for Him, and that Jesus laid down His life for me. What an inexpressible gift.
  2. At the age of twenty-two, I began my journey with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), taking a Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Kona, Hawaii, with an outreach in Ch!n@, Japan, and Korea. God placed missions on my heart, and I came to know Him and love Him more. On DTS, I also met Michael, as his parents were also DTS students with me in Kona. I had no idea at the time that we would be married a little over a year later!
  3. On my twenty-fourth birthday, Michael and I got engaged. Less than three months later, we were married. I am so thankful that God gave Michael to me. He has stood by me through so much, and he is such a treasure.
  4. At twenty-six, God brought me through a journey of recovery after years of struggling with an eating disorder. Three years later, I am healthier and happier than I had ever been when I told myself that losing another x pounds would bring me fulfillment. Thank You, Jesus, for using Toronto General Hospital to walk me through recovery.
  5. I became an SBS student at twenty-seven, and graduated at twenty-eight. What a gift it is to have studied the entire Bible and to immerse myself in God’s Word for nine months. What a treasure it is to see the redemptive work of God through history, and to understand the big picture of the Scriptures.
  6. After SBS, God called Michael and I into missions together at YWAM Turner Valley. I could never have predicted that I would be a missionary in my home province of Alberta, but we have no doubt that we are exactly where God wants us.
  7. God has given Michael and I dreams for the future – dreams to take the Word of God to the nations, through YWAM’s Titus program (more on that to come, or check out our newsletter for details).

The twenties have been a big decade with huge ups and difficult downs, but I am so thankful that God has been with me through all of it, and that I gave my life to Him almost nine years ago. Lord, I trust that Your presence will go with me into my thirties, and that You will continue to guide me through every milestone and challenge that comes in this next decade.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders/Let me walk upon the waters/Wherever You would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander/And my faith will be made stronger/In the presence of my Savior.


Free Books for Bloggers!

Recently, a friend of ours filled us in on Crossway’s “Beyond the Page Book Reviews.” (Crossway is a not-for-profit Christian publishing ministry). Basically, if you have a blog and are interested in writing book reviews, this is a great resource for free e-books! Signing up is easy – you simply provide a few details about yourself and your blog, Crossway reviews your application, and before you know it, you have access to an assortment of books to read and review. You can download two e-books a month, for a total of 24 e-books a year.

Here’s how it works: once you’ve read your selected book, you write a review on your own blog and at least one other consumer site (Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, Goodreads.com, etc.), and then you submit your review to Crossway. After submitting your review, you’re free to select your next book!

Maybe you have already heard about this program, but we’re new to it, and we’re looking forward to doing something we already do on this blog – reviewing books – without the cost of purchasing the book, or tracking it down from the library. If you have a blog with a minimum of fifteen followers, this could be a great opportunity for you too.

Admittedly, not every book available is something I (Helen) would be interested in reading, but there are some interesting titles to choose from. Michael’s first selection is Michael Horton’s Calvin on the Christian Life, and I’m looking at reading Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?: A Surgeon-Scientist Examines the Evidence by Thomas A. Miller. You can look forward to reviews of these books in the weeks to come. In the meantime, consider this program for yourself and your blog!

Last Week of Donation-Matching for Fistula Repair Fundraiser!

When I was little and I had to go to the doctor for a blood test or some other procedure I wasn’t looking forward to, my mum often would say, “Just think how lucky you are, and how many people in the world don’t get the same type of treatment.” I have to admit that at the time, I wrote it off; I’ve never been very good with needles, and to this day I can’t go to a blood test alone, as I am likely to pass out. But my mum was right. In the West, I have access to health care that others in less-developed nations wouldn’t even dream of. This is especially true because I am a woman. In other parts of the world, women are valued less than they are in my nation, and because of this, girls aren’t likely to receive the same medical attention as boys, and women spend days in obstructed labor because there are so few trained in labor and delivery.

For some of these women, obstructed labor is only the beginning of their suffering. Many lose their babies, and many are afflicted with fistula. After days of labor, maternal tissues die, leaving a hole (or a fistula) in the tissues, causing the woman to leak urine and feces uncontrollably. Many women who suffer from fistula are rejected by their husbands, families, and communities because of the smell that results from incontinence. These women are ostracized and in some cases, left for dead. Fistula is virtually unknown in developed nations because of the medical attention women receive throughout their pregnancies and childbirth.

Thankfully, there is hope for women with fistula. Surgery can repair fistula, giving a sufferer back her dignity, and acceptance in society. Christian Blind Mission is one organization that facilitates fistula repair surgeries. It costs only $400 for a woman to receive this surgery, and for her life to be changed. Until April 1st, YWAM Turner Valley is matching the funds I raise for fistula-repair surgery. These funds will be sent to Christian Blind Mission. So far, we have raised $450, and with the matching donation, that means $900 will be sent to Christian Blind Mission for this project! I would love to see $1200 come in so that three women can receive this surgery. Here’s how you can give:

  1. Give via credit card online. Go to http://www.cbmcanada.org/fistula and click on the “donate” button half way down the page. You will be directed to a page that says YES! I want to bring God’s healing to stop the suffering for women with fistula! If you do not arrive at this page, your gift will not go directly to fistula. The direct link for the specific fistula donation page is here.
  2. Write a check out to Christian Blind Mission, and in the memo line, write “for fistula surgery.”
  3. Phone Christian Blind Mission at 1-800-567-2264, and give via credit card. Specify that the gift is for fistula surgery.

If you give, please let me know, so that YWAM Turner Valley can match your donation. Ask God how He wants you to give – I am doing the same.

Michael’s Musical Musings: Loud Harp’s Asaph EP

One of my favorite musical discoveries in recent years has been the band Loud Harp. I have shared their music here before. Around when I discovered them, they were raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to record their next album; they achieved their funding goals, and I have been waiting patiently ever since. To build the anticipation, Loud Harp recently released an EP on Noisetrade, featuring stripped-down versions of some of their old songs, as well as new songs from their upcoming album. In addition to the stripped-down/live versions of their new releases, the EP includes an album version of one of their tracks. In talking to a fellow Loud Harp fan, we agreed that if this track is an example of what is going to be on the album, there is much to look forward to.

Loud Harp’s new album, Asaph, will be released on April 8th. For more information, go to their website, http://www.loudharp.com.

The following video is one of the tracks from the EP; it will also be in the new album.

Hospitality Corner: Homemade Soft Pretzels

I tend to gravitate towards baking sweets, but every now and then a salty snack is in order. Enter soft pretzels. These pretzels are salty, doughy, chewy and delicious, and they are great vehicles for dip. I made buffalo cheese dip to accompany them, and the bowl was scraped clean (I just mixed cream cheese and Frank’s hot sauce for the dip).

Soft Homemade Pretzels

The recipe for the pretzels comes from smittenkitchen.com, and this is actually the second time I have made them. I’m not much of a recipe-repeater, but these are just that good! The first time I made them (last Spring), I threw them together in a few hours. This time ’round, I took my cue from a suggestion in the comments under the recipe posted on Smitten Kitchen, adapting the pretzel dough to be made and formed the day before serving, chilled overnight in the fridge, and then poached and baked the next morning. This approach was ideal as I was serving the pretzels at 10:30 am. The following instructions give both options for preparation.


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 packed active dry yeast
  • 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola/vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • coarse salt


  1. Combine warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar in bowl of electric mixer. Sprinkle with yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast mixture, and mix using dough hook, until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat until dough pulls away from the bowl, about 90 seconds. Add 1/2 cup flour, kneading for one more minute. If the dough seems sticky, add another 1/2 cup flour and knead until combined. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth (about ten times).
  3. Coat bowl with vegetable or canola oil. Transfer dough to bowl, covering dough with oil. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm, draft-free spot for an hour. Dough should double in size.
  4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice, then divide dough into 16 pieces. If you want miniature pretzels, divide dough into 32 pieces.
  5. Working with one piece of dough at a time (and keeping remaining dough covered), roll each piece into an 18-inch long snake. Twist into a pretzel shape, and transfer to prepared baking sheet. As you work, cover the formed pretzels with a tea towel. If you are baking right away, let pretzels rest for 15 minutes, and then heat oven to 450 degrees F. If you are doing the overnight method, tightly cover pretzels with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge until the next day.
  6. If you have done the overnight method, pull the pretzels out of the fridge and let come to room temperature; this will take about an hour. While pretzels are resting/coming to room temperature, fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil and add baking soda and remaining sugar. Reduce to a simmer. Transfer pretzels, about three or four at a time, into water. Poach one minute each side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheets with parchment paper. Continue until all pretzels have been poached.
  7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon of water; brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake in 450 degree F oven until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Pretzels are best eaten warm, and should not be stored in a covered container, as they will go soggy.

For incredible gluten-free, vegan pretzels, check out http://www.blogher.com/glutenfree-hot-soft-pretzels. To make them vegan, I substituted brushing the pretzels with a little bit of oil instead of honey. I was so thrilled that this recipe worked – I have to admit I had my doubts about poaching gluten free dough, but amazingly, the pretzels didn’t disintegrate! Enjoy these pretzels, whether you make the glutenous kind, or the gluten-free ones.

Packards’ Progress: Spring 2014 Newsletter

We have some exciting new things coming up for us this year; please take a moment to read about where God is leading us in 2014 and beyond!

Book Review: Multiply – Disciples Making Disciples, by Francis Chan

This book was not at all what I (Helen) expected. When I heard about Multiply, I assumed it was a book about evangelism. Is it just me, or is that not what the title suggests? In any case, this is not a book about evangelism, so I felt a little thrown for a loop throughout my reading of it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book, or that I didn’t get anything out of it, but I just couldn’t quite shake the unmet expectations I had coming into it.

Another aspect of this book that makes it difficult to review is that I am not the intended audience for this book. In the introduction, Francis Chan states that this material is firstly, meant to be taught, and secondly, meant to be read in relationship with others. The ideal way to read this book is in twos, with one person being the “discipler” and the other being the one who is being “discipled.” Perhaps a better approach to this book than the one I took is to view it as curriculum, rather than something to be read personally.

Because Multiply is so different, I’m taking a different approach to my book review today – a sort of question and answer style. Hopefully this will help me get past some of the obstacles I had coming to this book.

Multiply, by Francis ChanWhat is the book about?

Multiply is broken into five sections: Living as a Disciple Maker, Living as the Church, How to Study the Bible, Understanding the Old Testament, and Understanding the New Testament. The first two sections address the practicalities of the church’s mission and living in a way that draws others into a deepening relationship with Christ, the third section is about Bible study methods and reasons for studying the Bible, and the last two sections are basic Bible overview.

Who is this book for?

As I mentioned earlier, this book is meant to be read in twos – in discipleship relationships. The author assumes that those reading the book are church-goers and have a relationship with God. This book is for those who want to deepen their walk with God in practical ways, and for those who want to help others to do that. I think this book would be ideal for someone who has just come through Alpha and has committed to following Christ, and is attending church regularly. It would be a great way to follow up with those who have made the decision to follow Jesus, helping them to determine the answers to questions such as “What’s next?” “What should my life look like now that I’m a Christ-follower?”

Favorite parts of the book?

I found the first three sections to be the most impacting for me. The “How to Study the Bible” section was a great reminder of why I do what I do in SBS, and I felt convicted to check some of my motivations for studying Scripture – it’s not just a Book to be studied so I can teach it, but a Book that is read to deepen relationship with God, to exalt Jesus, and to prepare us for the mission He has given us. Very basic stuff, yes, but it was a helpful reminder! I also really liked the conclusion, in which Chan reminds the reader that reading about the Bible is no substitute for reading the Bible itself.

Least favorite parts of the book?

I think the whole book was a great introduction to deepening one’s faith, but considering I was reading the book outside of the context it was meant to be read in, it was difficult for me to engage with Multiply. This is through no fault of Chan’s, however.

Would you recommend this book?

I would definitely recommend this book for someone new to their faith, or for someone who wants to walk alongside someone who is new to following Jesus. Each chapter ends with the suggestion to watch a video by Francis Chan and David Platt – the videos are geared towards someone who is in the process of discipling others. For the more seasoned believer, Multiply is a good reminder of the “whys” behind the church’s and the believer’s responsibilities and privileges as part of the body of Christ, but it isn’t really anything new (we are dealing with timeless truths, after all).

Overall, I have no major criticisms of Multiply. It just wasn’t the book I expected it to be, and for some reason, I couldn’t get past that. If you’re looking for a book to read with a friend who has just committed to following Jesus, this would be a great option, both for you and the new believer.