expat politics

There is a certain amount of freedom that is afforded to people who don’t live where they are from. For the last couple of years I have found myself a part of neither society. I’m an American but I’ve been in a long process of disassociating myself with that particular part of my identity. I wasn’t British when I lived in Liverpool. Even now, living in Poland, I am not Polish. I am here, but I am not of here.

Which leaves me living between cultures. I am guilty of completely ignoring the local news here in Poland. Part of that is because we’re kind of just passing through and part of it is that I barely know enough Polish to figure out what I’m buying at the grocery store.

That aside, what am I to do with the politics of my birth country?

It’s an election year in America and the overwhelming thing that I see is that both sides are having two different conversations. While I have my sympathies with one particular side, it’s clear that neither side is talking about the same thing. There is no defining of terms. There is a refusal to acknowledge anything but the worst example of either argument.

And being on the outside, being an ocean away affords me this privilege to look and see that neither side is worth following. I can see that if I want to stay true to what I believe in, I have no choice but to withhold my vote because there’s nobody there worth supporting.

I have friends who would disagree vehemently, who would say that it’s better to choose the lesser of two evils. And I get it because I am a bit of a pragmatist. I want things to work. The trouble here is that the system is completely broken so until the voting system changes, there’s just no way that I can take part.

For more writing about being an expat and figuring out what home is, be sure to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter Fake Suede, which launches Friday, 21 February!

I think I’m getting a little bit better at this? One of my favourite things about watercolour is that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it really helps me fight perfectionism. Speaking of which, I’ll probably be exploring perfectionism in an issue of Fake Suede in the coming weeks.

Got another really good gradient. Sunsets here in Poland do not disappoint. They’re no Arizona sunset, but still really nice.

Announcing: Fake Suede

When we moved to Warsaw, I started to wonder what this life is that my family is living now. I don’t live where I’m from and neither does my wife. This is kind of a third place for us.

Fake Suede is a bi-weekly newsletter where I will be writing about what it’s like to live where you don’t expect to be and how to be curious when something as simple as grocery shopping is mentally exhausting. It’s also going to be about raising a big family in cultures where they’re kind of… unusual.

The plan for the moment is to keep the length of the newsletter between 500-750 words. I thought about posting them here to the blog, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it fits here. It feels more like letters written to someone. And so it’s a newsletter.

As readership increases, I will be introducing a paid option but the base newsletter will always be free. When I start to charge, it will be for something on top of the regular newsletter, not for the regular newsletter.

All of that to say, the first one goes out in a couple of weeks. If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you, I hope you’ll join me as I write about this. Oh, and it’s called Fake Suede because my surname is the same as a certain luxury textile used in the automotive industry and on some computer keyboards.

You can subscribe by visiting the sunset below.

The Palomino Golden Bear is better than the 602 in basically every way. ✏️

Sermon and worship prep day.

My eldest daughter is 10 today. She wanted me to make a galette instead of a cake. Thanks to Josh Weissman, the face is now a required step in the pastry process.

Just finished reading the Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. The guy really knows how to create magic systems. 📚

Finished reading: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells 📚

Finished reading: Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham Jr 📚


Been listening to David Tennant reading War of the Worlds.

And if what we believe is based on God’s revelation, we cannot avoid referring to it in our answers…

-Voddie Baucham

Currently reading: Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham Jr. 📚

This post from Kottke featuring some amazing journals is really inspiring. They were also featured on The Cramped.

Today’s bread. Trying to get my head around working with rye, this one is only about 23% rye but it was still a bear to try and shape.

This post from Josh Ginter does a great job of summarising my approach to my own blog at this point.

I bake when I’m stressed. I’ve been baking a lot lately.

What we don’t expect

When we enter a new year, we go into it full of hopes and dreams. We have all of these plans for the new and for the better.

Midnight had struck in Warszawa. The new year. My wife and I could hear the fireworks booming in the distance so we went out onto our terrace. Our flat is at the top of the building and we have a 250 degree view of the city. Our view is north, toward the city centre.

And the entire skyline was lit up like magic. We stood out on the terrace, watching in silence. Nobody had told us that the city looked like this on New Year’s. In our hearts we thanked them because not knowing that this would happen made the night perfect.

Except things aren’t perfect. The previous day, my dad was airlifted to Lutheran General hospital in Chicago. Subdural haematoma. Our American family a huddled close, as we all pray that he recovers. We know not to pray for a swift healing because this is going to be a long journey. For now, we pray for safety. We pray that I don’t need to get a last minute flight to Chicago.

I’ve had to learn to hold fast to small graces over the last couple of years. The transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is as slow as it is sudden. So when we are discouraged, when we are lost, when we can’t find hope, we must look at the little things.

Every small grace is minuscule on its own, but they add up. They grow and they act as breadcrumbs that lead us back to our only real Hope in life and death.

A surprise, panoramic fireworks show is a small grace in the shadow of the burden of my hospitalised father. But it’s just one of a million reasons why I believe that God has been good to me.

First sketch of 2020

First quick sketch of the year. My wife and I are doing Cal Newport’s Analog January challenge. My make part of the challenge is to complete four paintings this month. They have to be done on paper, no digital painting allowed. For me, that means sketches like this count.

Learned the hard way that Stabilo fineliners are not water-proof so the index in my bullet journal is a bit of a mess now. I also learned some of the limits of Seawhite’s cartridge paper.

2019 has been a crazy year. I’m grateful to have been able to document it in this notebook. It’s a Leuchtturm1917 B5 composition notebook. 2020 will be starting with a Seawhite Travel Journal. No lines because 2020 is looking like it will be a crazy year.

One of the best things I’ve learned about reading the Bible is that what’s more important than being consistent with your Bible reading plan is being consistent with picking it up again when you miss a day.

My wife managed to get a photo of my kids’ hands in the mittens that I knit them for Christmas this year. Note to self: next time you’re knitting for all of the kids, choose something that doesn’t come in pairs!

My first time making baguettes. They turned out so much better than I thought they would!

Fave8 2019

2019 was a year full of highs and lows. The first seven months were spent in Liverpool doing ministry in a hard place. I studied biblical counselling and how to see the smallest positives as examples of God working in big ways.

Taking my son, Liam, to his first ⚽️ match was a huge joy and won me over to the beautiful game.

I had a surprise day off and the weather was beautiful. Tracy, Owen and I took the opportunity to spend the day in Liverpool One while the big kids were in school.

At the last minute, we were able to book a holiday home in Cornwall for the May holiday. It ended with Owen being very unwell and a 10-hour drive but it was an amazing time in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

One of our favourite things to do in Liverpool was walk down the road to Stanley Park so the kids could burn some of their energy.

It was also a year where I found myself unexpectedly separated from my wife and kids. August and September were the hardest time of my life. I had no way of going to see them and had to spend my days reading the Bible and praying about ministry opportunities in Europe while we wait the 12 months that are required before I apply for a new visa to the UK.

My first week back in 🇺🇸 was actually kind of nice. Tracy and I got to travel without the kids. It was a joy to have uninterrupted conversations.

I left 🇺🇸 and landed in 🇵🇱 in mid-September. Since arriving, I’ve learned a lot about working with different church cultures and a lot about how to sing in a foreign language. Benny the Irish Polyglot talks a big game about how Polish isn’t that difficult to learn but he is so very wrong.

Tracy and the kids joined me at the start of October. Since then, we’ve been homeschooling and trying to see as much of Warsaw as we can by public transport.

In November Tracy and I celebrated 11 years of being married. We called this year the Spinal Tap year because we’ve gone to 11.

It’s a strange thing to be missing Christmas traditions from two different countries while we live and serve in a third. It was a quiet day and the kids played with their toys all day long.

This was not the year I thought it was going to be. Not by a long shot. But, in the end, it was a good year.

Here’s to 2020.