It’s the End of the World

As we know it, that is.

Contrary to that seeming like the title for a post on politics that tastes like chicken (Little), it’s not. Nor am I referencing the song. I’m merely speaking of family:

Our family is finished in China.

Big news for some of you, I suppose, though we ourselves have known for quite some time, informed our leadership a couple of months ago, and had many in our various social circles long since pick up the info from various sources (some with alarming speed).

But for those who hadn’t yet heard, this is our official and finalized announcement.

It’s humorous how different from now our family looked when we moved to China—check this out!

2003 goodbye

(I am also humored that we had only ONE family airport-good-bye picture from that day. Tammy is not, but she gave me permission to post this anyway.)

When we came to China 13 years ago:

-Elijah was still 3 years future.

-Adoption wasn’t anything I’d ever seriously contemplated.

-We couldn’t have imagined the sagas that would lead to Lily, Eden, Hope, or Everett. Or a great many other things.

Now our China chapter is suddenly drawing to a close. Far sooner than we’d have guessed.



Probably the first—and quite logical—question to be asked.

The answer isn’t super clear-cut or simple. We aren’t quitting. We aren’t fed up, or angry, or disenchanted. We haven’t thrown in the towel, given in, or decided we don’t fit. We aren’t despising China, or our organization, or our calling(s).

It was a decision we came to very slowly (in tremendous contrast, by way of illustration, to the “decision”* to adopt Everett). We discussed and prayed about this one for months. In the end, it was a combination of many things that led to believing God was finished with us in China. Certainly germane to the conversation were the realities of our children. Somehow we’ve ended up with six of them. That was never the plan. But HE made my life about adoption (against my will at times), and I can’t ignore that.

Or them.

We’ve got three special-needs charges, now. (And may I say that the chaos is sometimes driving the rest of us ever closer to such categories?) There are educational, emotional, and therapy needs that aren’t necessarily going to be best met in far western China.

Everett’s recent coming played a part in the decision, too. Just before moving here to Xining (though while in Xining on a vision trip), God gave me the closest thing I’d ever had to a real vision, and he reassured me that it was “OK for me to be starting over.” (At “my advanced age of then-42” was the idea, even though that wasn’t quite short of Noah’s 601, who was the character-vehicle of the message).

Okay (I could only conclude), my Next Big Thing is going to be in Xining.

It’s only now in hindsight that I can see: there was no Next Big Thing here, at least not—and this qualifier is important— akin to anything I’d imagined.

His Next Big Thing was Everett. (Though I wonder if it’s not right and best to admit that my book likely belongs in the conversation as well. In fact, I will include it here—in spite of my awareness of the annoyances that Gollum-channeling authors often inflict: “MMYYYY BOOOOOK!”—as an exercise in spiritual and intellectual honesty with myself.) Anyway, because of God’s big idea for us (and yes, sometimes along the way I included a “Hey, what’s the…” on the front of that, as in, “Hey, what’s the big idea?”), I find my life changed. Once more it is about holding and hugging and healing and homeschooling and (come hell or high water, and they do) hanging on. I didn’t ask for that or want that, but I no longer resist it. It’s what he’s given me.

God moved my family from one city to another to save one kid.

“What a waste, eh? 

Well, that’s what most of us at least some of the time—or at least some of us most of the time—would say. All that money. All that time. All that effort. All those plans. All that strategizing. All those hopes. All that everything. All come to nothing because of what really happened.

One kid?


Yet there’s no denying it: that’s what he did.

So his list wasn’t my list. His things weren’t my things. They were bigger, and they were better, and, most significantly, they’ve got a future while mine fade to the past. This was his big idea.

So if Next Big Thing wasn’t here…

And if the needs of an eight-person family coloring outside the lines of sense became more and more outside the lines…

And if God was clearly doing something in and through and with our family (and by “clear” I mean: “clear it’s something” not that “the something is clear”)…

And if it was unclear how China continued to fit into that picture…

I guess somehow, and with lots of prayer, “going home” just eventually became part of the logical progression coming out of all that. (Please don’t make the mistake of assuming I’ve communicated all the factors here. The number of “somehow”s and “just”s and parenthetical insertions alone should clue you in to that.)

Next is ahead. Whatever that entails. Next is not in China. It’s at home. Though “home” is a bit of a misnomer because, after all, whose home is it? Our oldest has lived 4 of 16 years in America, just one-quarter (for those who bristle at the idea of reducing their own fractions during discretionary reading) of his life, and half of that was ages 0-2. The second has graced the U.S. for three years, the third for two, the girls for one, and Everett never. Even Tammy and I, though we call it home, will no longer experience it quite that way. We’ve done enough reading, have known enough other expats, and have visited enough to know: we won’t fit in like we used to. We’ll no longer be complete insiders. We’re different. In some ways for the better, and in some ways just changed. We’ll stick out. Won’t always be understood. Won’t always be able to so automatically relate, even to people with whom we did before.

But, for better of for worse, July 1st it is.

We’ll be home.

Home to stay.


“OK, then, where are you moving back to? What state? 


“What will you do, and what’s next for the Johnson family?”

Phew. Finally some questions I can answer without a blog entry:

We don’t know!



*Named elsewhere, I believe, “God’s 2×4.”

17 thoughts on “It’s the End of the World”

  1. WOW! Welcome back to America! Being a former MK living in the States I know the dichotomy of such an existence. Chris and I will be praying for you. I’ know you have a huge time of many different transitions ahead of you all. May the Lord continue to guide your footsteps. Also, we are looking forward to seeing you more often now.

    1. Thanks, guys! I, too, hope to see you guys soon, again, though a lot is going to depend on where in the country we land!

  2. I can always how you will come back to our area. We have at least one family that will have an idea of what you’ve been through and what you’re going through. The rest of us will love you through it all. His will not ours. Still talking to Him about you all.

    1. We love the idea of A again…if only it weren’t so far from our own families. We feel we need to give them a bit more access to our kids after being away for most of their lives. Thanks for remembering us!!

  3. Wow, Dann. Such big news! Selfishly, I would love the chance to reconnect with you and Tammy and get to know your kids. I can only imagine how difficult a decision this was and again can only imagine what a “ginormous” adjustment this will be for all of you. What came to my mind when you were writing about God moving you to another city for one child was the story of the shepherd who would leave the 99 to go and find that one lost sheep. What you have done is exactly what Jesus would do; he would take in that one that so desperately needs to be loved. Isn’t that what He actually does for all of us? You all are in our prayers as you face the unknown. We are still here in Carmel and we are here for you if you settle near here. If not, we will be praying for God’s guidance and wisdom for “a whole new world” (borrowing from Disney’s Aladdin).

    1. Thanks for that good-news comparison of the shepherd. He does do it for us all; you’re so right.
      I have to say that C is totally somewhere that we can see ourselves living again, and one of the places I’ve scoped out with Zillow quite a bit! We will keep you posted if anything moves us in that direction, and would love to reconnect with you guys!
      Our whole fam to yours

    2. Praying for you all as you make this transition. May you sense great peace and joy in the journey.

      1. THANK YOU, guys. Saw a picture of Brian recently and had a few moments of pondering just how different our lives (in temperature alone, not to mention a hundred other things) have been since we left NY together… Blessings to your family.

  4. Certainly praying for you all as the Next Big Thing unfolds. David and I now call Raleigh, NC our home. This area might offer your family many ways to connect.

    1. Y’know, that’s not the first time NC, and even Raleigh, has come up… We really don’t know where (or even what) we will be next. I’d love catching up with you and Dave sometime! Hard to believe how many years it’s been, isn’t it?

  5. Can’t imagine the mixed emotions you’re feeling and I know there will be challenges coming “home, but I know you guys will survive and then thrive through the transition. The grace with which you both live and the adventurous way you view change has always been something I’ve admired. Love you guys and the idea that I can fly to see you without crossing an ocean very soon.

    1. The planes that fly across the ocean will be in service these next few months, too, you know. Just something to keep in mind! 🙂 Carpe diem and all. Thanks for writing, it means a lot to us.

  6. Hello Johnsons,
    We are from the Lincolns’ home town. We’ve enjoyed keeping up with your family of 3-4-5-6. And hope to continue doing so. Make sure you keep us in the loop even when you’re stateside – we’d love to know how your kids are growing and to send you biscochittos wherever you are at Christmas.

    1. I recognize your name from those great care packages! Thanks for writing, and we will be sure to tell you (yea, the world) once we know where we are landing this summer.
      Blessings, and thanks for commenting/reading.

  7. I just found your blog by way of hearing about your book from my daughter who lives in Xining. Your comment about not fitting in stuck out to me because it seems that, when we follow Him hard, He tends to make us not “fit in” even if we’ve lived in the States all our lives. If you ever meet my daughter, she can explain where we’ve been taken. Adoption was never in our focus at all, especially after 5 biological children. When our last was born when I was 40, we joked about dying before we ever reach an “empty nest”. 4 adopted children later, it’s not a joke anymore. 🙂
    By the way, I’m looking forward to reading YOUUUURR BOOOOK and have shared the link to both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. And it’s very likely that I’ll be buying the hard copy, because that’s how I most enjoy reading.

    1. Well, nice to meet you, Connie! You just might be the first real-live “person I don’t know” commenter on this blog! (I don’t do anything to promote it, both for time and ignorance reasons.) Thanks for sharing those thoughts, and Wow, what a story you guys have. Amazing. (Empty nests are overrated, right?)
      I hope you enjoy the book and our story in it. Blessings!
      What’s your daughter’s name?

      1. My daughter is Karen Skinner. She said that some of her friends know you, though she has never met you. I didn’t get a chance to read a good portion of your blog yet. Are you in Xining now? She teaches and lives at Qinghai University.

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