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!
(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.
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.
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.”