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Here’s how we’re ringing in the new year here at the Evans house…

… Abraham jumping by himself in the living room! We just got back from Ohio a few minutes ago and Sammy and Eli fell fast asleep in the car. I have no doubt the rest of us will be in bed and asleep long before midnight. Message to young people: you don’t decide to become lame adults who would rather sleep than party, it just happens. Goodnight everybody, Happy New Years!

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Recently Sammy has been very stubborn about eating his dinner. It’s obviously a matter of will and testing boundaries because he refuses to eat things that he actually likes. Tonight he refused to eat his scrambled eggs, which he usually loves.

He’s old enough now to be held a little more responsible for his decisions, so we’ve been trying to crack down on him pretty much every night. If you’ve ever met him you know how social he is, so our chosen mode of discipline is to leave him alone at the dining room table until he’s eaten his dinner.  He absolutely hates being alone, especially when he thinks he’s missing something.

So tonight, we’re an hour and a half into dinner and he’s alone at the table. Everyone else is upstairs and he’s by himself, Gretchen and Eli are playing in his room and I’m doing schoolwork and monitoring him through the camera on our desktop computer downstairs. He looks like this:

He's the blond speck scowling at the table.

Last night it took two hours for him to eat a few bites of squash. Tonight it looks like we may be in for an even longer haul.

***UPDATE*** He ate the eggs! Only moments after I posted this, he even promised to eat his dinner tomorrow night. We may be making progress…

Here it is if you want to buy it:

544 Elm Ave.

Doesn't it look lovely!

If you or anyone you know wants to buy a beautiful (and affordable) home in Old Southwest, click here for the listing.

We’ve decided to relocate our family to Ohio. We’re putting our house on the market as soon as we can and, Lord willing, as soon as it sells we’ll move.

The red one is Ohio.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of factors that have played into this decision. We first began considering a move in September of last year and since then we’ve spent many nights talking, praying, outlining possibilities and discussing the idea with wise people whose opinion we value. I won’t bore you with the minutia of the decision making process, but I thought I might illuminate a few major considerations as a means of explanation for our family and friends.

Our new flag. Not a rectangle!

First, we’re having another baby. That means as of June we’ll have three boys under the age of four. Gretchen’s entire family lives in Ohio and we could really use their help with the boys. Moving will enable our boys to grow up in the same community with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I have a lot of respect for Gretchen’s parents and a lot of love for her sisters and their husbands. They’ve all been supportive of us in the past and the prospect of having closer relationships with them is valuable to us. Plus the free childcare. And one of my brothers-in-law drives a motorcycle, which is cool.

Our new state seal. Looks pretty "great" to me!

Second, I’m going back to school. We’ve been looking into a way for me to complete a theology degree for the last few years, but I’ve vacillated on the idea and we’ve never really seriously pursued it. My indecision, in part, was because of some serious doubts I’ve had about being called to ministry. There was a time when I was absolutely sure that I wanted to pursue pastoral ministry, but then Gretchen and I had a very negative experience with a ministry where we worked and my faith was shaken pretty severely. I spent the next 5 or 6 years kind of spinning my wheels, struggling through anger and bitterness about what we had experienced. A lot of that anger ended up directed at what I perceived to be failings of the Church and organized religion in general. I became very critical of churches and pastors, even to the point where I was just generally anti-vocational-ministry and anti-intellectual. I wanted to serve Christ, but I wanted to do it without the things that I perceived to be “fake”, like churches and formal educations.

I’d like to say that I’ve had some sort of major epiphany, but the truth is that God has just been graciously changing my heart over the last year or so. It’s been a slow process, and I think it was as much about me maturing and outgrowing some childishness as it was anything else. Time levels mountains, and I guess God uses it to humble foolish people like me in the same way. I’m ready to go back to school.

Five years ago we bought a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood. We’ve done a lot of work to our house and by God’s providence our entire neighborhood is significantly less crappy than it was when we moved in. Even estimating low, we can sell our house for a significant profit. So much so that we could actually live for a year with no income while I go to school full time. Folks in my position with families and responsibilities don’t get a lot of opportunities to take a year off from work, so we’re going to make the most of this one. I imagine it won’t happen again.

There are of course other reasons. We want to live in a larger city, we want a change of scenery, Ohio’s state fossil is the Trilobite, etc. The bottom line is, we’re moving to Dayton, Ohio as soon as we can. We’ve been working pretty hard on getting our house together and we’re planning to have it on the market by the end of the first of March. So, if you know anyone who is looking to buy a house in an up-and-coming historic (no longer crappy) neighborhood in Roanoke, VA, please let me know.

The fair city of Dayton. I hear it's a lot like Detroit in 1996!

If you remember, a year and a half ago we had an idea. I quit my job and went to work for a local restaurant. I posted updates about the job on another little blog, but then I stopped posting. Here’s what happened:

I went to work for this restaurant chain last summer. I worked a ton and by early spring I had been promoted to General Manager. I was getting exactly the experience we had hoped I would. Our store was doing well and I was relatively successful at what I was doing. Things changed in the early fall though when my bosses started putting increasing pressure on me to work more and more hours to compensate for the business we were losing because of the recession. I ended up working 70 to 80 hours a week, sometimes for weeks straight without a day off. Also, as I moved my way up in the ranks of the company I was being asked to do some things I could not, in good conscience, do. My employer was wanting me to overlook issues of harassment, terminate employees for unjust reasons and fabricate paperwork for incidents that didn’t happen in order to deny folks unemployment.

So, I quit. I put my notice in on Halloween. I figured that with experience as a General Manager on my resume I would have no trouble finding some kind of management job in Roanoke. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I guess with unemployment being as high as it is and restaurants trying to weather the holidays, no one was hiring. I eventually did find a job with a very well known local restaurant (that is being featured in Southern Living magazine next month actually), but just as a cook and making no where near the money we needed to live. I continued to hunt for a job and Gretchen and I sort of went back to the drawing board in terms of our future plans. I had accomplished the goal we set when I left my old job to work in a restaurant, but I was also under-employed and our financial situation was looking bleak.

The job I left when we decided to pursue restaurant work was with a hospice. I was the Volunteer Coordinator and I picked up some of the Chaplain’s duties when he was overwhelmed. Evidently my old boss heard that I was looking for work and he contacted me and offered me a job as a Chaplain (believe it or not, I am actually a licensed Southern Baptist minister). I took the Chaplain job, which pays significantly more than the cook job. Even though I think I’ll miss being in the kitchen, I really do love hospice and I’m happy to be getting paid to do ministry.

And here we are. I’m a hospice Chaplain and we’re considering where to from here.

Here’s the only existing photo of me as a General Manager. I’m wearing an Optimus Prime helmet and doing the robot.

boots

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One of our big Christmas presents this year was a tent! All of us are really excited about warm weather in the spring so we can camp outside. Of course we set the tent up in our living room soon after getting it so we could see how it works and play inside. Sammy and Eli LOVED it. They just laughed, jumped around, fell on top of us, and thought it was awesome.

Last night, we attempted to sleep in the tent as a test run for the real deal outdoors. The boys were both very tired so at…about 6:50 we turned out all the lights and went to bed. They were so sweet (it’s Sammy’s dream to be able to sleep with Eli) mumbling to each other and rolling around trying to fall asleep. I can’t even tell you how precious it all was. Anyway, around 8:15 Eli fell asleep and at 8:30 Sammy opted to go up to his bed.

It’s good to know what we’re getting into when we go camping for real–late bedtimes and lots of fun!

This is awesome!
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There’s a little static in here!
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On Charlie’s day off last week, we decided to enjoy the fall weather by going on a little hike and having a picnic afterwards. After making cookies and packing lots of food, we were ready for our adventure! The hike went well (Sammy’s first time to walk that far) and was filled with lots of, “woah! rocks!” or, “oh, trees!”. It was fun to see Sammy soaking up the sights and sounds of the outdoors. We didn’t take any pictures on the hike but will hopefully have a video up sometime (if Charlie has time). The picnic was a hit with both boys, and we took TONS of pictures of that! We put up a gallery here, but there were too many favorites for me to put them all in one post. So check back tomorrow for part two of the pics, or you can look at the gallery if the suspense is too much for you.
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Gretchen and I have decided to take a drastic step in a new direction.

To get right to the point, we’re planning to open a restaurant here in Roanoke where we can serve good food and also do on-the-job training for chronically unemployed and homeless folks in our community.

Our plan is to open a little place somewhere downtown that just serves breakfast and lunch. People who are looking for an opportunity to get back on their feet can come and work for us for 6 months or so and then move on to full time employment somewhere else. While with us they’ll learn about food preparation, sanitation, professionalism and a variety of other topics that will help prepare them for a career in food service. They’ll also get some training in financial planning and some other life skills in order to improve their quality of life and help equip them to keep a job long term. After 6 months they’ll receive a Food Handler’s Sanitation license and we’ll help them put together a resume and find a permanent job.

Now I realize that, to some of you, this might sound like a naive and incredibly stupid thing to do, and I imagine that some of our close friends and family might want to discourage us from pursuing it. We understand that it’s risky and has no guarantee of success, but we feel that it’s something worth trying. Below are some of the questions people have been asking me and how I’ve been answering them.

Q1. Doesn’t it take a lot of money to start a business? Do you have any money?
Yes, it does take a lot of money and no, we don’t have any. Our plan is to incorporate as a non-profit so that we can raise the capital we need to get started.

Q2. Running a restaurant is hard. Do you know what you’re doing?
No, not yet. I’ve worked in restaurants before, but not recently and definitely not in this capacity. I approached a local restaurant chain with my idea and they said that I could come work for them for a year and learn what I need to know to run my own place. Lord willing, when we try to get this off the ground next year I’ll have the knowledge and experience I need to make it work.

Q3. Aren’t homeless people usually pretty lazy and unreliable? What makes you think that you could get them to come work for you?
As many of you know already, we’ve been very active with the homeless in our community for a while now. We’ve had the privilege of getting to know quite a few of the folks in our community who are chronically without homes or jobs, and in a few cases we’ve really come to love them. Most of them are homeless because of some sort of mental illness or problem with chronic substance abuse, and many of them lack either the ability or the desire to re-enter the work force and become productive, self-supporting members of society. Those people wouldn’t be the ones we’re looking for.

Our program will be open to those men and women who are homeless because of other circumstances. There are a lot of individuals who end up on the street because of an accident that resulted in inability to work, or a move and a bad investment, or a divorce and a period of severe depression. When people find themselves in those situations it can be very difficult to get their lives back together. Our hope is to provide a way for them to get back on their feet. I’ve been talking to some of our homeless friends about this idea and the response has been very positive. I’ve even been getting some questions about when we’ll start and how soon they can apply.

Also, there are a few places across the country doing this already, including a couple restaurants in DC that have been open for almost 20 years. They’ve had a lot of success and hundreds of people have gone through their program and settled into full time jobs.

Q4. What’s the matter with you? Why would you lead your family into financial ruin just so a few homeless people can learn how to cook?
Gretchen and I believe very strongly that Jesus Christ is God, and that the things he said when he was here on earth were true. As a result, we believe that if we make sacrifices in order to obey him, he’ll look after us and make sure that we’re alright. We also believe that he wants rich people to be generous to poor people. So generous, in fact, that they don’t stay rich very long.

We want our kids to grow up seeing us live by this principle, even if it means that they won’t have every little thing they want. We want them to grow up knowing that selfishness is unacceptable, and that giving to the point of sacrifice is normal. The Bible says this about Jesus Christ: “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich.” We want our kids to grow up seeing us act like Jesus in this way. We hope that maybe one day they’ll be better people because of it.

For more about God’s feelings about the poor, read these passages in the Bible: Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Proverbs 14:21&31, 19:17, 21:13, 22:9, 28:8&27, 29:7, 31:30, Isaiah 58:6-12, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 25, Luke 6:20, and 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Q5. That’s a very interesting idea. How can I find more information about it?
We’ve had a lot of success with this blog as a medium for communicating with our family and friends about recent happenings in our lives. I’m planning to use my own little blog as a forum for discussion as we work towards making this dream a reality. Up until this point it’s just been politics and weird stuff I found on the internet peppered with the occasional blustery monologue, but going forward I’ll be using it to chronicle our experiences changing careers and opening a restaurant. If you’re interested, go to http://leftovers.tumblr.com/ and watch for updates.

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  • Ephesians 2:1-3
    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath […]

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