So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2013 Edition

As parents, we believe in the power of routine. Routines give children structure and safety. From the foundation of a stable routine, they can be confident in launching out into new little adventures of discovery, assured that they can return to home base if things get a little too overwhelming.
As adults, we see wisdom in that for our own lives. That where ever God puts us, one of our first priorities is to establish routines of responsibility and healthy activity. That “home” is not so much a physical place, rather its what you do and how you behave when there’s nothing more challenging going on. A good routine means that you don’t settle into negative habits, but positive ones. Habits that allow you to recover from past challenges, learn from them, and prepare for the next ones — automatically, and as a default behavior.
So that was 2013 — by and large. Not our most exciting year, but not devoid of little adventures either. Mostly about finding our rhythm, and helping our growing kids find new rhythms of their own. These things are made a little more challenging, of course, when your world shifts around you. For Ben and Abi, and Nicole their chauffeur and guide, new schools were their biggest opportunities to adapt. Each were more than ready to graduate from their pre-schooling efforts (pre-K for Abi, Kindergarten round 2 for Ben), and excited to move on. But of course there was trepidation and emotions involved. For Nicole it was figuring out how to juggle 2 new schedules. And for Eli, life continues to be a race to beat her older siblings to every milestone. (At barely 2 and a half, she can write her own name, and just this morning she got up before the rest of the family, turned on the TV, woke up the Roku, opened Netflix, selected a show, and settled in to watch quietly until everyone else was awake.) For me it was wrestling my professional life back into the right direction after a re-org that was outside of my control.
But of course if you never launch out from your routine, it ceases to be healthy and becomes a rut. So we happily shipped our favorite babysitters over from home and hit the road for Disneyland, entertained a regular stream of guests from both North America and further afield (Siberia and Malaysia!), and I even squeezed in minor surgery as my own routine continues to adapt to a 2 year old accident that still irritates. We also joyfully welcomed a new member of the family, visited home, and attended a couple pretty special weddings.
Combine all that with opportunities to serve our church and church family, new and growing friendships in our new home, some great hikes in the nearby Cascades, biking through an old mountain pass train tunnel, renting a boat and tubing in Lake Chelan, and multiple road trips to Western Canada, and you’ve got an interesting, but pretty peaceful and gentle year. Not a bad thing for a young family!
The Wises 2013
Our outlook and early plans for 2014 look good, 2015 looks to get a little more adventurous again, but our God is bigger than our human plans, and we’re confident that His are the best. So we’ll continue to pursue Him, and try to figure out how to give Him the glory for both the challenges and the many blessings He sends our way. Happy New Year to all of you, and to our friends and family, whom we love very much — regardless of geographic location!

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.
DSC_0100
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?

So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2011 Edition

Here we go again with another year, and I’m already behind on my annual retrospective post!
This past year has a lot to commend it, and a few things to condemn it. Three events, really, can sum it up — but of course there are additional details that shouldn’t be totally excluded.
We started the year possibly feeling a little chagrinned to discover that there would be no changes in the housing situation. Our little house in the prarie did not find a satisfactory buyer in the time we were willing to put into the effort, so we gave up and tucked in to wait for the new baby (and settled on a new van instead). Feeling not a little trapped, I was grateful to have a motorbike to experience a little adventure on. Little did I know how painful an adventure that bike would lead to!
By mid-May, I was confined to a bed with my leg in the air, while Nicole was home with a newborn, and two toddlers who needed their (obviously distracted) parents more than ever. Fortunately, my mom, who spends most of her time doing much better things overseas, was home to help prepare for my sister’s wedding, and was able to lend a helping hand — and then some!
Nicole was recovered, baby settled, and me hobbling in time for the aforementioned wedding — or two, as some very special girls wed the young men who’d become so important to them. We were excited that our family got to have a part in both ceremonies. We were excited too, to celebrate our own 10th anniversary.
With the summer over, and winter looming before us, promising more snow, gray and gloom than we really thought we could handle after such a tough year, we began plans for at least temporary escapes, affording the kids their first flights — among other things. Nicole found and booked us a vacation home in Florida for the entire month of January — something we’re enjoying even as I type this, and possibly our first successful (albeit hybrid) vacation ever!
And there you have it: 2011. Of course their was some home improvements, seminary, changes at work and various projects that I dove into, in the continuing hope that there will be more to life than what the last few years have offered us; there were first days of school, and soccer, and other new things for Ben and Abi — and the joy of seeing those things through their eyes. But at the dawn of a new year, with our philosophy of adventure looking a little battered and bruised by the winds of change and the realities of adult life, we are looking forward to finding, seizing and exploring more of the world that God gave us in 2012…

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!

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!