For some people ‘abundance’ may mean plenty of money, for me it means having more than enough of every good thing. First and foremost: gratitude! The rest comes by itself…

Harvest time has begun in our orchard and once again I feel like a child: happy! As a little girl I sat with my stoic grandfather for hours down by the creek picking red currants by the bucket. These days I do the same with my daughter, though the location has changed and we no longer listen to the gurgle of the water flowing by, but my daughter’s favourite tunes. Great times nevertheless!

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But not nearly as much fun as picking cherries with pretty much the entire family:

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After the great times in the garden come of course the not so rosy times in the kitchen, but by cooking up some great recipes, come usually also some good stories to be saved for later …

A Phone Call on Canada’s 150th Birthday

This morning, on Canada’s 150th birthday, I got a phone call that leaves me filled with joy and gratitude.

When the phone rang, my husband claimed, “that’s for you. Perhaps your parents.” The portable phone on my desk was as so often out of battery, so I quickly went into the kitchen and checked the display. It wasn’t my parents’ number showing nor any number I kew.

“Hi. Is this Antje?” a friendly man’s voice asked when I answered the phone. Thinking that it might be the roofer we are expecting to call, I walked toward our office, but then the man continued, “this is Peter Panagore.”

I stopped in my tracks, my heart opening with excitement and joy. I walked toward the living room instead, sat next to the open window as if I were somehow closer to him that way and we had a most pleasant conversation for the next half hour or so. You must know Peter is like a brother to me, although we’ve never met or talked with each other.

Peter is the author of Heaven is Beautiful, the first book I came across and read when I researched NDE after I had penned down my own experience for I didn’t want to mistake my own recount of my near-death experience with anybody else’s experience nor did I want to be influenced by others. However it is necessary to research the market when you write a book and read what has been published already.

Many people have written about this topic I realized, but soon I found that only Peter Panagore’s experience of Heaven comes close to what I recall. His well-written book, Heaven is Beautiful, is a mixture between a wilderness adventure and paranormal nonfiction novel in which he describes his story leading to his death on top of a mountain and what happened after…

I’m mostly in awe with his book, because it reads like a good adventure story I would pick up to read for pleasure, but then when he describes his death experience, and its aftereffects, I found his experience of bliss in Heaven and then his struggles afterward not too different from mine.

Since first reading his book when it came out in the fall of 2015, I’d been busily working on putting my story into a publishable book manuscript myself. I had queried publishers with the outline and the first chapter of my story already, I had completed my third draft of my so called “memoir,” when in January 2017 I received an email with an invitation by Rev. Peter B. Panagore to submit stories of transformations to him to possibly be included in his third book.

Wow. I always wanted to share my story with him. I took a serious long look at my manuscript and thought, “okay, why not?” I brutally cut my words and boiled down the essence of my full book manuscript to 8000 words and in February I sent it off to him. I tried to leave out my ego and as much drama as possible and concentrated on giving a testimony to God, His presence and His everyday miracles we all can experience in our daily lives. The possibility of sharing my story with Peter Panagore was enough for me to let go of the rest. I just hoped he would see and appreciate what our NDE experiences had in common.

See, personally I am – literally – a reborn Christian, but through research I know that near-death-experiences happened at all times, in all areas of the world, and to people of all confessions and beliefs. Peter Panagore never said he had a near-death experience, he claimed he had a death experience. That is what I feel I had, though the doctor who was present at the scene that night told me not too long ago, “Antje: at no point did we reanimate you.” Her comment threw me off at first, making me feel like an impostor. I knew what I experienced was real, but how could I prove that? – The answer is, there’s no proof. Dr. Mary C. Neal, MD comforted me when she wrote in her book, To Heaven and Back, “Although it is a commonly-held belief that a person’s soul departs at the moment of their physical death, I have come to believe that the departure of the soul defines and determines the moment of death, rather than the body’s physical death determines the moment of the soul’s departure.”

On some days I can’t wait to share my NDE with the world and show you how it changed my perspective on life. On other days I feel rather timid – after all I’m only human.

Today, when Peter Panagore called, I witnessed him being as excited about reading my story as I was when I read his. He said, he read faster toward the end for he wanted to call and talk to me right away. We talked about our common experiences, about our decision to return into our bodies when we had the chance to stay in Heaven only to find ourselves regretting this decision instantly and for so many years. We talked about our feeling responsible for our families and the fact that this is not true, for only God is responsible and everyone is being cared for. We talked about our struggles, our after effects and about the world being so much more than what we can grasp in our limited understanding. We were hesitant to end our conversation, hesitant to let the other one go, for it was such a precious conversation. He promised me to include my story in his next book if his publisher was still interested in a third book. – I guess this is not up to the publisher after all, but to God.

For me this was the happiest Canada Day ever. I am so grateful to God, grateful to Peter for reaching out, and grateful for every experience I’m living through. Happy 150th birthday, Canada! I’m grateful for calling you home for now.

If you are interested in the topic of NDE or would like to experience God more, if you have a loved one who experienced a NDE or perhaps had one yourself, I encourage you to get to know Him and perhaps start by checking out Rev. Peter B. Panagore’s “Daily Devotions.” I enjoy his food for thought everyday.

Following links to books and personal stories of NDEs might also be of interest to you:

Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) is the largest NDE Website in the world with over 1300 full-text published NDE accounts. www.nderf.org

After Death Communication Research Foundation (ADCRF) Is the second largest ADC Website in the world with almost 900 full-text published ADC accounts. www.adcrf.org

Out of Body Experience Research Foundation (OBERF) Is the largest website of its kind which includes all other consciousness experiences that are not an ADC or an NDE in the world with almost 1000 full-text published accounts. www.oberf.org

AFTEREFFECTS OF NEAR-DEATH STATES – A near death experience rarely leaves the person unchanged. Here you can find a few common after-effects.

The Bizarre Electromagnetic After Effects of Near Death Experiencers – A so very true phenomena I have experienced quite often myself.

From Sketch to Art

I’ve been taking a course with art director Giuseppe Castellano (Penguin), founder of The Illustration Department, whose courses I can highly recommend. For this particular course (Summer Session) we were invited to submit a sketch for a project we are currently working on. I decided to illustrate a PB manuscript I wrote a few years back and ever now and then pull out to revise. For now I think the latest revision is pretty good, so what better timing to work on some illustrations to add …

I invite you to take a look at my process and the different stages for this particular illustration:

  1. Sketch: Instead of sketching with pencil on paper, I primed a 16 x 20″ canvas with coloured gesso, then did a monochromatic oil sketch using burnt sienna mixed with either black or white



2. As suggested by Giuseppe I changed the pose of the polar bear slightly and tried out my colour palette



3. Next: checking values in greyscale



4. I decided to add more colours, keeping the entire manuscript in mind. Although I haven’t painted them yet, I pictured the previous and following pages to this illustration and decided to treat the background with the same care as the two characters



5. I researched my two different bears and their territories some more. Since I’ve never been to the tundra, I looked up videos on Youtube. Here I’m trying out colours and adding texture:



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7. For now “final” illustration


I hope you liked seeing my progress and process.

Lesson from a Donkey


Our donkey Benjamin is sometimes a little timid yet has a great imagination. He can, for example, start chewing on your sweater only because it is green, or he might run wildly  over the field while braying, pretending to be the leader of a wild pack, only to realize when glancing back that neither the horse nor his mother, not even the sheep or the dog followed his pretend game… His friend the cow would have joined in the fun no doubt, but she sadly moved to a different farm some time ago.

The other day when it was so hot outside he and his mother Molly decided to rest in the barn over the hot noon hours. They asked for permission to come in and while Molly marched into her stall she usually shares with Benjamin, her son walked down the aisle until he reached the horse’s stall and entered, a triumphant glimmer in his eyes. The horse chose to stay out in the field, for what is heat to an Arab? So I closed the doors and let them doze for a while.

In the late afternoon I checked on them and opened the doors to release them back into the field. They were in no hurry, but Molly walked out the barn for the sweet grass was waiting after all. Benjamin however stayed in the stall. I didn’t think anything of it and let him enjoy the horse’s kingdom for a little longer. However at night he still didn’t leave the stall, although he stood at the window braying to his mother and the horse. He stayed in the barn for the entire night with only the sheep snoring in a pen down the aisle.

In the morning, I could tell he really longed for company, yet he wasn’t willing to even get near the stall door. I put a halter on his head and tried to lead him out, but he showed me the stubbornness of a donkey. I asked his mother to come in to give his son a nudge, but she walked in and out of the horse’s pen without her son following. I bribed her with a handful of oats to try again. She tried, but soon left unsuccessfully on her own. The horse showed up and I asked him to chase the young donkey out, but even though he was willing, he had no luck.

Whether it was his guilty conscience of being on foreign ground, or his wild imagination that something terrible might happen if he stepped from the straw onto the concrete of the aisle, perhaps simply his unfamiliar point of view, … whatever it was he was petrified in fear. In the very end his patient mother lead him out while I chased after him with a broom, and finally he stepped onto the dangerous aisle and happily braying ran outside into the field unharmed, rolled in the sand, played with his friends and most importantly filled his hungry stomach with sweet grass.

Donkeys are said to be stubborn, but they are also one of the most intelligent animals I know. They are known for doing things only when they fully understand the task or the situation at hand. I too like to know the details before I sign up for something, I too like to know the pros and contras before making an important decision. But often our fearful imagination prevents us from taking the necessary step to get us over that threshold that keeps us from reaching our greatest desire.

It’s not the first time I learned from the donkeys…








Camera versus Sketchbook

Like most people nowadays I carry a smartphone with me when I leave the house. I mostly enjoy it for its built-in camera, so that I don’t need to carry a bulky camera with me all the time. Usually I use it for snapshots or reference photos. Does it replace a sketchbook though? No. Not for me.

Most people I know use the camera on their smartphone to easily share photos and videos on social media, documenting their day. Well, my life is not that interesting that I would feel that need and I never intended to live my life for other people to impress or amuse. But that’s my personal worldview.

I like to experience life, and this is when my sketchbook comes in. From my experience, I don’t remember places where I quickly shot a photo of and then moved on. True, it’s nice to have a photo to share with the people you care about. But if I don’t remember that place with my own senses, how valuable might it be for others?

When I sit down to sketch, I take in much more than the lines and shades I put into my sketchbook. I make myself look. I see details, contrasts, and scenes I might have overlooked did I only take a quick photo. I make sure I notice the colours, sometimes I scribble them into my sketch, I observe textures, patterns, shadows, face expressions, …

My sketches can be very rough and often they make no sense other than to me, but years later I will still remember the sounds I heard, the atmosphere, the people I was with, the scents I smelled, even the weather or temperature of that moment in time. Sometimes even my thoughts.

Can you do that with your smartphone? Sure. Kind of … My daughter recorded sounds of the city when she was sketching in Montreal, or at the ocean. It too enhances our memory and I do enjoy our ever improving technology. However I doubt that she would remember the scene as much had she not taken the time to sketch and instead filmed the scene. When you draw, you are absorbed and yet alert. You take in much more than you know at that moment. When you take a video or a quick photo however you are not involved, but by putting a device between yourself and the scene in front of you, you detach yourself. Therefore you never really experience the moment, not at the time when you shield yourself from the scene with the device, nor later when you watch the photo or video and the moment has long passed.

Try it for yourself. A sketchbook and a camera both have its place – and combined, they’re miraculous!

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That’s me sketching in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal after the 2017 SCBWI Conference. The photos were taken by Rachel Comeau #rachelcomeauart and I’m very grateful to her for how can I now ever forget that day?