So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2009 Edition

2009 is fading fast, and a whole new year stretches out before us. Before things slip away, I need to take time for my annual jonandnic.com re-cap…
For starters, this has been easily the most normal year of our lives — where by normal, I mean relatively sedate. We haven’t announced plans to move to another country, we haven’t worked 3 jobs between the two of us, and we’ve managed to fight off the yearly itch to find another place to live. We haven’t even made any major purchases this year. 2009 has, for us, been about shedding our youth, and finally embracing adulthood and parenthood.
Not that these things are without adventure or challenge — just that the adventures are of a different variety and the challenges are a little smaller in scale. It turns out that we won’t actually fall over dead if we’re not constantly changing things up — we just have to learn about some different roles, and focus on some different goals.
With that in mind, we set out to do things like improving our home and gardens, finally dealing with my persistent back issues, and sending out some great young people on adventures of their own… not to mention marrying off Nic’s sister and going on our first ever family vacation!
In fact, we were feeling so good about this new normal life of keeping our kids alive and legal, that we hardly noticed when a good old-fashioned adventure snuck up on us out of the blue. Suddenly the life we were much more accustomed to was back with a vengeance — and it came to us, right here in our comfy little home, without us having to go anywhere to find it.
So comfortable were we that we almost turned it down — our own voices from our not-to-distant past, as well as the encouraging voices of family and new friends, made sure we didn’t. Which is good, because we don’t plan to ever!
And with the decision out of the way, I was off for 3 months of travel and trial, while Nicole’s mettle was tested on the home front — not alone, thanks to the afore-mentioned friends and family, but certainly more independant. Proving once again that when God sets a task before us, He sees it through for us.
Of course we continue to see all of these things — both the lessons in stability and those in adventure — as preparation and equipping. In the past year it’s become increasingly obvious that our own plans are meaningless… but as He did for a cop from Canada (and a teacher and a nurse that I know pretty well), we are confident that God is putting together a plan for us greater than we can imagine. As of 2009, we’re done trying to guess what that is, and done trying to put our own plan into place. We’re following God where ever He leads us, and obeying whatever He asks of us — even if we don’t understand it at the time.

Here comes 2010, and we can’t wait to see what He has in store — for us, and for you. A belated Merry Christmas, and an on-time Happy New Year to all of our readers. Thanks for hanging in there with us during a fairly blog-sparse year… hopefully next year will be better!

So I Tied an Onion To My Belt… 2008 Edition

It’s been my tradition, for almost as long as jonandnic.com has existed, to annually collect and post a sort of retrospective recap of the year past, and briefly re-visit some of the defining moments and events of the last 12 months for our family. Although having a blog means we can go back and read about these events, there’s a sort of catharsis in summarizing them, with the perspective that a few months of growth tends to give you…
It was actually late in 2007 that we came to understand that our adventure in New York had run its course, but with our second baby on the way, it wasn’t until January of 2008 that the details were in place enough that we could formerly pursue a move back to Canada. But that doesn’t mean we were ready for it. Like the move to New York, there was lots to learn and do and negotiate, so most of the year, necessarily, was sacrificed to that task. And aside from minor surgery for our little guy, and a last minute road trip to Boston, there were plenty of other distractions to keep life interesting.
While we started our good-byes, packed our little apartment and waited for Abi to arrive, we spent some time pondering the things we’d experienced and learned. There was plenty about our time in the U.S. that we’d enjoyed, and God continued to give us a new outlook on the things we’d been blessed with. But we weren’t really sure at all what He had in store for the next chapter.
Meanwhile, we kept waiting for Abi to arrive… and waiting, and waiting, and waiting!
She finally did, of course, and the moment and the day were as incredible as you’d imagine. But her arrival was like the gun shot to start a race, and from then on, things got really challenging. Just a few short weeks after our family had grown by one, we were seperated, as Nicole moved home with the kids, to begin preparing a landing pad for our family — and my career, which supports it!
It wasn’t much fun being separated, but I had a lot to do to keep me busy, so we pushed through it, and got in little visits when we could.
Things wrapped up nicely at work, in preparation for the big change, and with 4.4 shipped, and the boxes all packed up, we said the big — but not permanent — good bye to New York, and the other places we’d managed to visit… and moved in together in a little apartment in our College town.
And I’ll pause to point out here that it was a very nice apartment — but that living there with two kids and almost none of our stuff, made it very uncomfortable for us. House hunting, for our first real home, was obviously a priority, although not really a joy. Not, at least, until we found our perfect little spot, in a little town, conveniently located near nothing, but far away from nothing, either.
And then we waited for our closing date… and waited, and… well, you get the picture.
Fortunately, we had a busy summer to keep us occupied, with a challenging and exciting wedding (or 4) to attend, and some re-discovered “cons” in the pros and cons list for living in Canada vs. the U.S. And although we’ll probably never look back on that particular summer in our lives with fondness, the reward was worth the effort when we finally moved into a house, and for the first time in our adult lives, committed to staying some place for more than 2 years. We’re still adjusting to that reality, but we’re doing our best to make it feel like our own.
And besides, just because its our home base, doesn’t mean we can’t travel. A fact which made itself evident barely two weeks after we moved in, when we packed up the whole clan and headed back to New York, for one more State-side celebration of 2008.
Finally settled in, and still discovering what God has in store for us here, I proceeded to piss a bunch of people off, and then did it some more. But even in that, and in what God taught me in both the writing, and the debate over the writing, we catch glimpses of a plan that’s bigger and more exciting than we could ever imagine. For maybe the first time in our marriage, we have no idea what the coming year holds — we have no plans, or burdens or passionate fervor for a particular goal or task that we have to conquer this year. We just have the experiences God’s given us, the sometimes perplexing tuggings of His will on our hearts… and two beautiful kids, a great home, a good job, and a world-wide playground on which to discover His purpose for our family.

I can’t say 2008 has been a great year. But its been a good one, and we have every reason to believe that 2009 will be an equally amazing, but totally different adventure. From all of us, to all of you, our dearest readers, we wish you a Merry Christmas, and a 2009 that is challenging, revealing and fulfilling…

2007: Shades of Gray

Another year is behind us: our 6th together as a married couple and our first as parents. It has not been a year like anything we could have planned or even understood as we experienced it, but we survived it as a family, and we’re getting closer to being able to say we’ve learned from it. As is my custom, and with your permission, I’d like to take a few minutes to review where we’ve been…
We started things out in 2007 learning how to be parents. I’m proud to say that we were pretty well prepared, and didn’t hit many things we didn’t know how to deal with. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a challenge — or a joy either.
Like someone used to say about his parents, our little guy “hit the ground running.” As soon as we could, we brought him to youth group, and shortly after his one-month birthday, Benjamin was traveling across the border to visit his other home country. Soon after that he was on his first youth retreat, and learning how to swim.
It was about at that point that things got interesting. A trip through a glass window started a long string of… challenges that would pursue us throughout the year. And despite remaining steadfast in who we are and in what we believe, sometimes those things don’t stand up against life on their own.
Sometimes people don’t really see who you are.
Meanwhile, the more practical challenges of our pursuit of this adventure began to take their toll. Looking for a break, we decided to take our first vacation ever as a couple… and the hits just kept on coming!
So we ended the year with the wounds, both physical and emotional, still healing. Nonetheless, there are plenty of good things that we take away from 2007…
– Our son continues to be a healthy, happy boy, ahead of his developmental curve and a delight to be around. And then we found out that we would become parents again when we were given the gift of a baby girl that we can’t wait to meet.
– We got to help disciple and guide a dozen of the most incredible teens we’ve ever known, and then send most of them on their first missions trip — then stood back and watched as God challenged them and changed them.
– We got to see my parents “retiring” the way I want to retire — on the missions field in Asia.
– We made huge progress toward solidifying our own financial dreams and goals, thanks to the job I stole from some poor American.
– And if nothing else, we learned a thing or two about ministry, technology and life from some truly amazing people here in New York.
This has not been the easiest, or happiest year that this humble blog has recorded, but it hasn’t been unambitious, and we don’t leave it behind with any regrets (except for the part about putting my arm through a window… I’d probably do that one different, given the chance.)
There will be lessons to absorb from the things we went through this year, but those will present themselves in due time. Right now, we have all of 2008 in front of us, a growing family to guide, and a lot of wonderful friends and family to help us through it.
As always, stay tuned right here to discover with us what God has planned next…

So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time…

Well it’s 2007. Nic and I didn’t quite ring in the new year with friends — we did make it to a really nice party, but had to cut out at around 10:00 so Benjamin could eat, and we did stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop. But before 2006 gets too far behind us, it’s time for my annual recap.
Unlike the last, this year did not start off quiet. It started off intensely stressful, and pushed us to the limit in more ways than one. Emotionally, financially and even in our relationship, our mettle was tested as we figured out how to move from one country to another. But God was there, and He lovingly guided us to an amazing young church, that would have a bigger impact on us than we could have imagined at the time. Of course there was, and still is, some things to adjust to, and some issues to deal with. But our family and friends — both old and new — were there to encourage us, and give us perspective — both on where we’d been, and on where we were heading. And by Easter, we really began to see that God had a plan bigger than just a new job and a new home…
Our new and exciting church was making waves all over the region, and we found ourselves getting drawn closer to the center of that activity. Suddenly all the ministry experiences God had given us in the past year started to make sense. We found out that the seemingly random experiences and skills God had given us weren’t so random after all, and God put us to work in new ways that were both challenging and fun. Our priorities began to shift and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how God wanted us to shape our lives. In a matter of months, God surrounded us with His faithful servants who taught us and encouraged us to act out what we felt God was directing us to do, and before we knew it, we weren’t just getting our feet wet, we were helping people into the water. And then I had two jobs!
But that wasn’t all that was happening! Earlier this year we began getting ready for our biggest challenge yet. And if it seems like Nic didn’t have as much to do this year, being out of a job and all, don’t under-estimate the job she had in front of her. We were both scared and excited and nervous, but Nic knew almost instinctively what had to be done, and when the time came, we let our friends and family know… we were about to be parents — and I would soon have three jobs (dad being the 3rd title!)
All of these things seemed to come to a head this Christmas season, as my employer decided I was worth keeping around another year, our church opened it’s second campus, and our son arrived just before the year ended! It has been a whirlwind of a year, full of experiences and challenges neither of us could have imagined when we were starry eyed young kids planning our futures. God has been good and faithful, and has blessed us with a good job, a nice home, an incredible church, two wonderful families, and with amazing friends, who filled this website with comments echoing our joy and excitement when our son was born. We wouldn’t be here without you all — we certainly wouldn’t have survived this year without your support. We hope 2007 is an awesome year for all of you. Thanks for reading our site and supporting our little family — we can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this year!