About a Dozen Years Ago…

[We interrupt our regularly scheduled storytelling to bring you this, the first in a regular series]

Hello, Readers (I flatter myself). Really, how many readers can a 10-day-old, visually unappealing blog have picked up?

Anyway, whoever you are, you should know that this off-topic entry is two things:

1) The plan I had had for May 1 even before this blog started. The story below wasn’t merely “about” a dozen years ago, it was exactly a dozen years ago.

2) An experiment. As I’ve used my spare time to either a) write here or b) do adoption paperwork, I really have no idea who’s been reading. I’ll figure out metrics eventually, I’m sure, but for now… if you leave a comment saying something like “Give us Part II, you moron!” versus (or in addition to) interacting with the blog itself…I’ll know you’re out there. And if so, I’ll stay up late one night very soon and get Part II out lickety-split.


A dozen years ago, May 1 was very significant for us. But then, every May 1 since then has been significant, too, because we live to China, where May 1 is a holiday: International Labor Day. Way back in 2004 (but just 11 years ago), and planning for our very first May Day, we asked a question that in hindsight I see could only have been asked by an ignoramus: “Wouldn’t May 1 be a fabulous time for visiting the Great Wall?”

In my yet-unreleased book, we discuss that Wall memory with Enoch in a debate we’re having about possibly visiting again several years later:

We’d barely seen the Wall at all, as the people teeming on it looked like ants on a…well, whatever it is they’re on, you can only see the ants. As we were carried along from point A to point B, the throng around us was only slightly more delighted with their national treasure than they were with Enoch’s blond hair and white cheeks. He was like an alternate tourist attraction, only free. “Hey, let’s all feel the blinding-white foreign child here in this backpack carrier. Here, take my picture with it!” Unfathomably, his fright only added to their entertainment.

As far as Enoch was concerned, if we were talking about going to that wall again, it was the furthest thing from great.

We still laugh (and shudder) about that trip.


2004-05-03 at 13-38-07


But the May 1 before we left for China was significant, too. Why?

We closed on our house.

And why, you ask, was that significant?

Well, we were living in New York so I could complete a 1-year Master’s program. The house was in Texas. Before we’d moved, the plan had been to pay for tuition, rent (triple what the same straits in Texas would have been), and our living expenses from the profit of selling that house. We had left Texas the summer before with only renters moving in, but they had a mortgage agent who assured us they would qualify for a loan shortly, “no problem.” (Hmmm…perhaps “ignoramus” holds potential for development as a blog sub-theme…)

In November, those renters flew the coop.

In December, we started making our Texas mortgage payment on top of our New York rent payment.

In early January, I went to pay Spring Semester tuition and in thumbing through the checkbook noticed the account was within $100 of where it had been when I paid for Fall Semester? How did that happen? Where had that money come from? Our sole monthly supporter was our Texas church, giving about ⅖ the amount of just our rent payment.

In mid-January, The house was listed on MLS via a realtor relieving us of all optimism with her 6% commission and 5% decreased asking price advice. But without the house selling I didn’t even see how we were going to live one more month.

On January 29, some introspection led to some journaling about how much we’d raised our lifestyle and elevated our spending habits while in Texas. Now in NY we were definitely learning to live on less and with less, and so according to the maturity I possessed at the time (not that my observations were bad or inaccurate) I concluded: “Lessons learned, Lord—OK, sell that house!”

In February…Nothing. Somehow all bills were still paid.

On March 15, we got a contract on the house.

On March 24, the contract fell through. We had to spend money to fix stuff plus face a fifth month of absorbing the mortgage.

In April: Growing panic, but eventually leading up to…

A dozen years ago today, on May 1, 2003, we closed on the sale of our house. Graduation was two weeks later, and we would move to China three months after that.

How had it happened? We didn’t really know. It was the very first time we had experienced miraculous provision like that. We rich get very few chances to trust in that way, don’t we? And the older I get it only seems the more safety nets I have. But how cool to get that chance as “poor” students. Awesome, really. Amazing. Humbling. Why would God do a money miracle for people who were as rich as we were? But he did. He does. He isn’t “fair”—much of the world lives on less than I could even if I wanted to try—he’s loving. He sees us, and he provides for us. All the time.

It’s love.

How about you? Can you look back and recall a year—or a moment—when God miraculously provided for you?



8 thoughts on “About a Dozen Years Ago…”

  1. Hey Dann, I’m reading & looking forward to Part II.
    I have many stories of how God provided for us in a time when we needed it, especially when I had gone back to school and Dave was laid off. I told Dave that I would stop going to school after that semester & start back once he got a new job. He said, no, that’s where God wants you. We made it through 10 months of unemployment with many things happening that only God could have provided. He is Awesome!

    1. Cool, Martha. Thank you for sharing. And I should probably add, “for not calling me moron.” Happy May Day, and blessings on you and Dave.

  2. Hey Johnsons!
    Good to see how the Father provides…we too are amazed at His generosity and humbled by His love for us! Keep us posted! BTW wish you could be at Jake and Marcie’s wedding…..an answer to prayer! We will have a girl in the Cantleberry Clan, yay!!!

    1. Hi, Challise!
      Did Jake tell you he’s getting married on our 20th? Even if I wanted to pop down to the Philippines, I couldn’t––I’ll be taking Tammy on a trip! So happy for YOU to finally have someone besides all those boisterous men around!

  3. I love your blog! My mother taught me long ago that if you give, God provides. My husband and I have always given and didn’t know how we’d make it. Somehow, some way… We’ve always made it. For us, we have money to give but no time. I’ve witnessed in so many other people that giving isn’t always about money, but how you can give. You and your wife have given and God will continually bless you ad he’s promised. Happy May 1st!

    1. Joy Bell, I don’t think I ever realized back in the day what a kindred spirit you are… Course, I’m probably the one that’s changed the most. Hope I get to meet Robert someday. Thanks for your great words above. Funny thing, if I’m ever blessed with enough time/opportunity to write a second book, I already know I want it to be about money/giving.
      Blessings on your lovely family.

  4. Pleaseeeee give us part 2 – I’m not going to call you a name, but I’m loving reading about how y’all got to this exciting new decision and am just about to bust to get all of it!

    1. I promise I’ll do it tonight! 🙂 Others have asked on FB or Messenger, too, but I just haven’t been able to tear away and get it done (adoption paperwork on top of regular life and all…) hang on, Maria!

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