Our Born Again Firstborn

The other day, Ben and I were driving around on some errands, and he started into his “God” line of questioning. The kids frequently ask questions about Jesus and God, and daddy’s grandpa — who died and is with Jesus. These are complex concepts to wrap around a 2 and 4-year old brain. How are God and Jesus the same person? If God’s bigger than our house, how does He live in our heart? Why did Jesus have to die? Why did daddy’s grandpa die too? Is Jesus taller than daddy? How old is Jesus? How fast can he run?
All of these questions have been asked and answered numerous times, with the best most patient answers we can, doing our best to reduce answers to questions only God Himself really understands to something our kids can comprehend — without being blasphemous in the process!
This time though, some of the answers really seemed to be hitting home with Ben. In his thoughtful little way, he wanted to know if God lived in his heart. I told him that God will come and live in his heart as soon as he asks Him in. He wanted to know how, so I told him he’d have to pray. He wanted to know when he could pray — could it be when we got home, but after he had his cookie?
I’m not sure about his prioritization, but shortly thereafter he took my hand and we walked down stairs, and I’m helped him pray a simple believers prayer. When we were done, he pointed to his chest, and asked if God lived there now — and will he live there for always? I assured him that He would, and gave him a hug, and he trotted up stairs to tell mommy.
Of course his understanding is incomplete, and his faith is simple. But at 30 years of age, my understanding is still incomplete too. I was also saved when I was 4, and although there was a time when I was about 16 where I came to the realisation that I wouldn’t make it without my Saviour, I’ve never doubted my own simple believers prayer said 24 years ago.
And now my oldest son, my firstborn, isn’t just a part of our earthly family, he’s apart of our heavenly family too. There will be lots of hurdles and hard times. If he’s anything like his father, there’ll be rebellion and anger and stubborn independance too. But at the end of it all, he’s been bought with a price and saved by grace, and I couldn’t be more proud of my little man.

I don’t blame you for being you, but you can’t blame me for hating it

With the family now rolling in a minivan, and the lease on the Matrix gone, that left dad cruising in an ancient SUV. Now don’t get me wrong, our 2002 Saturn Vue served us very well. It rolled over 244,000km this week and shows no signs of letting up any time soon. However, my hip is starting to show some wear from working the manual transmission in a very heavy vehicle. So I traded it in. Nic was a little sad. I was happy to bid farewell to it!
In exchange for the our well-used Vue, and about $1500 (with a warranty!) I picked out a little something I’ve wanted for a long time. I give you my first Saab…

Oh yes, it’s old. It’s a 1997 with 230,000km on it, and its not even in perfect condition. But this is the Frank Sinatra of automobiles. Its quirky, its got class, and its really really good at what it does.
The 1997 900 S was a non-turbo version of the venerable, and record breaking Saab hatchback, and although influenced by GM’s investment, this year was still firmly a product of the jet-making Swedes. In 1998 the 900 became the 93 – maybe one of those will be my next car.
My version is a Talladega edition; one of only 25,000 made in honor of the records Saab broke on the Talladega speedway in 1996 where multiple 900s were driven for 8 days straight at a combined average speed of 140 miles per hour. It’s a 150hp, 5 speed manual, nicely equipped with leather heated seats, power everything, and the then revolutionary Saab Information Display – mine’s even still readable!
Its not particularly practical, and even with a 6 month comprehensive warranty, I expect its going to need some TLC eventually. But it cost less than my motorbike, and it gives me something something fun to drive when my bride and I go out on date nights, or to the airport and leave there while I’m gone on business trips.
In fact, its so retro-cool that it’s even got a CD-changer in the trunk. I think I’ll load it up with 90s rock CDs and forbid any other kind of music in my car.
Except Sinatra, of course.


Nicole finally got her Christmas present last week. Thanks to her parents for pitching in, and a contest from work that provided some of the funds, she got the Digital SLR camera she’s been wanting for the past 5-6 years. It’s a Nikon D5000 12.3 megapixel that came with an 18-55mm lens. We originally had found a package deal with two lenses, but that’s been out of stock since boxing day, and we wanted Nic to have her new camera before her sister’s baby arrived.


She briefly tried an entry level Sony DSLR, but found it unsatisfactory, and we decided a decent Nikon was worth the extra $90. Plus this one shoots HD video, which is a feature I had my fingers crossed for. She got the second last one available in Ontario, we think.

We don’t really know how to use it yet, but Nic’s parents got her a book, and we have friends with some expertise, so she’s getting more comfortable with it. With lenses costing what they do, I have combined birthday/anniversary presents lined up for at least the next couple years…

Not Moving

The parallel activity with buying a van was taking the house off the market. We maybe coulda just barely pulled off both a move and a new vehicle at the same time, but the two activities were intended to be in serial. Had God given us the OK to move to a bigger place in a more expensive neighborhood, that would have been an indication that He wanted us to dig in a little deeper and get more comfortable for a long haul (giving us more freedom to spend debt on a vehicle.)

The fact that the house didn’t sell, when all logic suggested it should, to me seems like providence – although I acknowledge that some people prefer to call that coincidence or random chance.

The van is a necessary addition to our budget. A bigger house would have been nice, but we can get by for now. We’ll just have to assume that God has something else in mind. Maybe 2011 will provide more hints as to what that might be…

Our Swagger Wagon

After more than a week of research, following up numerous leads, and frequently being disappointed by just how shady used car salespeople can be, we finally narrowed our choices down to something we can live with.

We wanted a vehicle that we could pay off in 3 years or less, with room for our family plus at least two, economical to drive, that would be comfortable and reliable for road trips. It came down to a Honda Odyssey or a Toyota Sienna. Both vehicles have typical life expectancies of over 300,000km, and hold their value better than the average van. We were unable to find an Odyssey in our price range that didn’t have a very suspicious background.

We did, however, find a Toyota with a flawless CarProof vehicle history, and immaculate service record. One owner, an older couple, who didn’t miss a single tune up or recommended service. It’s a 2004 LE with 117,000km on it. For a Sienna, that means its nicely broken in. We got the vehicle itself, reasonably equipped, for $12,600 – and then added some comfort features that are mostly just vain conceit, like heated leather seats and a DVD system for the kids, for another $3000. Our credit rating scored us 4.5% financing at the bank, so we should be free and clear well before our target date.


Granted, its not the hippest set of wheels out there. But you can’t tell its 6.5 years old, and for those in the know about family vans, a Sienna is a very respectable vehicle to drive. We may not be broadly cool any more, but in certain circles, our ride is a pretty sweet one. We take delivery next week, which means we didn’t quite make it 3 weeks without a car payment… oh well, at least we own one of our vehicles. And really, with a family of 5… this had to be done.

This Isn't Just Good-bye, This Is I Can't Stand You

Today we returned our 2007 Toyota Matrix. A lease, and not our most financially savvy acquisition. We assumed the lease to meet a need, and the vehicle did do that — a few needs, in fact, which we’re happy for. But we’re very happy now to see it gone. It was a “Toyota Racing Division” model, and the thing was ridiculous. It had these insanely expensive racing tires and brakes, it was torqued bizarrely high so that you were squealing your tires practically any time you used first gear. And it was a death trap in the winter.
Granted, it was fun to drive. But that’s all it was. And it was too expensive for that. When we turned it in we had to pay for the tires — it was $1400 to have them replaced by anyone else, so we hadn’t gotten around to it. Toyota charged $600. Subtract the $375 deposit, add tax, and we’re glad to pay only a couple hundred to get rid of it.
We now have only one vehicle — our aging Saturn Vue with just shy of 250,000km on it. But! We have no car payment. None at all!
We’re not sure how long we can hold out with only our SUV, especially with another baby on the way. But we can augment our wheels with free rentals, due to all the points I’ve stored up renting vehicles for work, and if we can hold out until next fall, we could pull off a pretty sweet ride with a short term and low payments. Until then, however, we’ve got our eyes peeled for a good deal on a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna or an exceptionally good deal on a Dodge Caravan. Let us know if you see anything!
…And yes, I’m aware that I told a number of people that I’d never own a minivan. That was a younger me… back when I had dignity, a back that worked, and no kids. For those of you haters out there, I give you: The Swagger Wagon…

So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2010 Edition

Another year has passed, and as is my tradition, here comes my year-in-review of posts that marked some of our deepest thoughts, and biggest adventures.

Its easy to look back on 2010 and feel underwhelmed — certainly we aren’t the same crazy, broke, adventurous kids we were when this blog first began. But to say this year was boring wouldn’t be fair. In some ways it was a year of review – of re-visiting things we’d conquered before, but this time approaching them with a little more maturity and patience. Hopefully, too this was another year of preparation and learning for whatever comes next.

The figuring out of what comes next was, at the start of 2010, and still is, a major area of contemplation for us. Discerning God’s immediate plans, and choosing activities that hopefully lend themselves to the longer term ones  remains a process we don’t completely understand how to best be obedient in. Meanwhile, though, my insatiable appetite for places novel and interesting was kept at bay through some neat destinations that my work allowed me to visit. And of course, the motorbike helped — a purchase that probably gave Nicole both anxiety and relief (since no one likes living with a caged animal.)

Fortunately, we both had plenty of opportunity to stretch our travel legs when we took our second trip as a couple to Asia, where mental, emotional and spiritual stimulation is found at every stop. This time we got to enjoy the company of a travel companion possibly even more adventurous than we are – an experience that undoubtedly shaped, or affirmed the shape of, our views on child rearing.

When we got home, it was to a good-bye, as my grandpa passed away – thankfully in the presence of family. Our own mortality marched forward into another decade, and shortly afterward we learned that we were going to be parents, yet again. As milestones slid by into the rear-view mirror, both for ourselves, and for our little ones, it was nice to get some visits in with those who’ve known us since before we were grown-ups.

With the news that our family was growing, and financial stability no longer being a distant dream, we decided to find out if God’s plan might include a move to a slightly bigger place. At the moment it appears it does not, and if that’s the case, we’re content to make the best we can of the home He’s blessed us with right now. Wonderful visits to other places that are or were or might be home, reminds us that we are strangers and foreigners on this earth – longing first for that better country.

2011 looks at least to bring another baby into our lives. We haven’t completely given up on the new house idea either, although if nothing happens by March, that thought will go on the shelf for awhile. As of now, there are no international trips planned. School, work, family and part time ministry seem to be the extent of what God has entrusted us with for this year, and we’ll do our best to be grateful and earnest stewards of these things – and continue to hold out hope that some day they add up to something for His kingdom. Of course, should anything a little more adventurous come along, we’re up for that too!