So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2012 Edition

For new readers, this oddly titled post (a Simpson’s quote, which possibly only my brother and sister will properly appreciate) is my annual tradition. Check out last year’s if you’d like!
2011 wasn’t our greatest year — the brightest light being the birth of our third child — and we were determined that 2012 would look different. Less pain and disappointment, and more of that adventurous spirit we hope to raise our children with. It turned out that 2011’s tough times would prepare us for 2012 in ways we couldn’t have predicted.
We started 2012 in a very good place to spend a cold Ontario winter month: in Florida — with some visits to old friends along the way. We had an inkling even then that our month in a different home was a foreshadowing of things to come: the idea of a relocation had been tossed around at work, and subsequently at home, for a few months now. We rented a house in Florida for a vacation, a reclamation of a mostly lost summer, and to exercise the freedom that my job at the time offered. But we also did it to see how the kids would handle doing life in a different place. It turns out we can handle it just fine.
When we returned, it was to a project that seemed to perfectly fit the experiences God had provided for us in the past, and we were pleased to dig in with a little church planting team and learn some more from the other wonderful church leaders God had connected us with. These felt like final things, though — like culminations of relationships and education that rightly closed out a season. And as things with my accident were settled financially, we began to feel even more like we were poised for something… we just didn’t know what. We began preparing the house, and our other responsibilities for whatever that thing was, all the while trusting God — and trying to follow Him day-by-day.
It was May by the time the next step became clear. Although we had assumed an eventual move with my then-employer, organizational changes and diminishing opportunity opened us up to looking elsewhere. I secured a job that I now know is a very tough one to get, and with the suddenness of a starting gun at a race, we were off across the continent… where God had clearly gone before us, providing the paperwork exactly when it was needed (and not a moment before!) and a beautiful new home (nearly twice the size of what we were leaving, with a mortgage payment in the same neighborhood!)
While it cost us a month of togetherness, by August we were whole again, planning school for the kids, finding a new church home, and exploring the beautiful part of the world where God had led us. I have been delinquent in blogging about the mountains, the trees, the lakes — the beauty which surrounds us, but I need to be clear that this place is wonderful. We discovered last weekend that while there is rarely snow at our house, just 30 minutes up the highway into Snoqualmie Pass they have 10 feet of wonderful fluffy stuff; enough to comfortably coat perfect ski and tubing hills in a winter theme park of fun. In the warmer months we’ve been here, we’ve ridden the ferry to a nearby island, hiked through the forest to a waterfall, and picnicked at the foot of a mountain.
We’re excited too to have family relatively close. After years of rarely seeing my brother and sister, we’re now within a days drive of each other, and got to spend a fun Thanksgiving weekend exploring Seattle and hanging out with them. The in-laws cottage in BC should provide some fun summer get-togethers, and the annual visit home with my parents should be a lot easier now as well.
Greg, Liz and Dave
It hasn’t been as easy as maybe I’m making it sound. There was, and still is, the loneliness of being somewhere new and missing your friends and family, the stress of managing finances in two different countries, the risk of starting a new job, and the uncertainty of leaving what is comfortable. But as we make new friends, and learn new things, and see God’s world from different angles, I hope everyone reading can understand that we will always be strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). The only home we desire is in heaven… but while we’re here, we want to see everything we can, steward wisely the blessings God gives us, share what we have with others, and raise our children to know obedience, and the glory and wonder of God’s creative power.
I’ll wrap up 2012 with my favorite quote I learned this year
The important thing is this: to be ready at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.
Are you ready?

A very Star Wars Birthday!

Today, Benjamin turned 6 years old. We’ve been parent’s for 6 years!
For Ben’s birthday today, he’s enjoying his first grounding. No lego and no electronics for two days — that thanks to a new Christmas break habit of delayed obedience. Yesterday, he paused his video game when called for supper, then decided he’d go build something with lego before he came downstairs. He ambled down the stairs 5 minutes later and straight into being grounded for the first time ever!
We’ll celebrate the day tomorrow with another first — he and I will finally get to watch Star Wars together! Another little friend and his dad will come over, and the girls will go hang out elsewhere, so we can have the volume loud and not have to share the popcorn. We’ll be watching the original, unedited movie “A New Hope” on widescreen LaserDisc, so he can appreciate its original form. He’ll also be getting some classic Star Wars toys to play with. I’m at least as excited as he is!
Happy Birthday, little man. We sure do love you!

The One Where Jon Is/Is Not a Liberal

Just so no one can accuse me of being too much of a Conservative, I’m going to spend some time railing on the fact that Christians need to get out of their “holy huddles” and re-focus on helping those in need… But before I do, two anecdotes:
The other day I was walking between buildings in my employer’s downtown Seattle campus, when a pair of scantily dressed ladies in tight dresses crossed the street in front of me, one of them flinging her boa over her shoulder as she passed. As they got close I realised that they weren’t ladies at all. They were young men. This is Seattle.
Seattle residents generally identify themselves as liberal. In fact, I was in a volunteer information session in downtown Seattle, and as the facilitators laid out the facts about poverty, prostitution, and child sex workers in this city, they expressed genuine surprise that such things could even occur in such a liberal, educated city like this one! The absurdity of the notion that more liberalness should somehow lead to less sin completely escaped them.
So yes, I’m going to side with liberals briefly here, but always with the understanding that sin, a liberal lifestyle, and the corrosion of morals will lead to more sin — not less.
But then you have bewilderingly “conservative” viewpoints like “If only we had more guns, there would be less gun violence!” and “Health care shouldn’t be controlled by the government!” while the conservative agenda continues to make it difficult for people who genuinely need either mental or physical care to get it.
Its these two horrifically polarized sides of the national debate that leave a giant gap of un-met needs, rather than coming together to solve problems. Its the middle of America that is largely unserved by either political position. Conservatives won’t invest in liberal activities to the benefit of their country (or the rest of the world). Liberals won’t invest in Conservative activities to the benefit of their country (or the rest of the world).
I’ve personally had to wrestle with this debate. Seattle is a city with needs. Seattle is also a city more-or-less devoid of God (as an example, at my job you can create internal online communities and groups for anything — literally anything — except your faith.) In Seattle you can worship sports, or theater or music, you can invest in cars and yachts, you can go to strip clubs, and bars — but I’ve yet to see a church. I’m sure they’re here, but their presence is not tangible. I have yet to identify another Christian in Seattle.
So as a Christian who loves God, loves others and wants to serve the world, the most Christ-like expressions of that desire can be found within liberal programs, liberal organizations and Government-entitlement-spending-leveraging services. The Conservatives, for all their righteous indignation, have apparently abandoned the needy in favor of their comfortable east-side churches. Me included, if I take no action!
Indeed, this problem is not restricted to places like Seattle. The most noticeable community service organizations I’ve ever seen are United Way or Red Cross. Soup kitchens are in government funded community centers, not churches. Out of the Cold is run by the YMCA, not the local congregation. When did we turn over loving others to the secular world? When did the American church decide it was better to fight for Conservative values than for lost souls?
(As an aside, I’m well aware that many — if not most — of the unpaid volunteers who make these secular organizations work are Christians serving humbly and without advertisement of their obedience. Its the leadership of these efforts that we’ve given up on — not service entirely.)
We have similar frustrations with giving. We ache to apply good stewardship toward effective, impactful ministries reaching the world. But we can’t find them. The local youth shelter can clearly articulate their mission and vision, and the strategy and actions they’re taking to execute on it, then tell you exactly what they need, how much of it, and when. Church congregants dump some money in the offering plate, and once a year fill shoeboxes, ship them overseas, and hope that somehow American plastic junk will change lives and win souls for the kingdom.*
(* Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful program, and I’m sure it does have a beautiful impact every year — but its no substitute for getting off your butt and actually doing something!)
I don’t want to read another Christian apologist explaining where God was when mass shootings happen. I want Christian’s making God famous by being first on the ground when people are hurting, with tangible ways to help — and a message of hope. When I can’t find those people or those Christian groups doing those things (or worse, when I can find them, but they’re too busy defending their agenda to make an actual difference), my volunteer time and my money will have to align with liberal groups doing what Christians should be leading the charge in. If I’m to be obedient to God’s direction to help the least of these, what choice do I have?
Seriously…someone, give me some choices.


As much as I love my Saab, it’s pretty much the base model. 4 years old when I bought it for $13,900, it sold new for $39,000. My theory is, its better to buy a high end base model, then add what you want yourself after-the-fact. Here are the repairs/upgrades I’ve wanted (with dealer prices, installled, next to each.)

  • Stability control module replacement ($579)
  • Stereo head unit replacement ($1800)
  • Auto-dimming mirror with garage door opener ($1200)
  • Clear tail lights (MY2008) ($620)
  • Bluetooth handsfree integration ($800)
  • Bluetooth A2DP stereo audio (N/A)
  • Foglights ($500)
  • Parking Assist Sensors ($500)

For a total of just shy of $6000 in OEM upgrades (where available) installed. Buying the parts online, either new or on eBay, and doing most of it myself over the past year, cost a total of $1940… and a few afternoons in the garage cursing.