Will I Allow Myself to Be Swung?

Perhaps like your dad may have, my dad used to swing us when we were little. He’d make a swing seat with his arms and begin that slow increase of motion until… WHEE! In a woosh of release, out goes the body and I’m shooting towards space. Dad’s got my ankles, and after I go vertical, there’s the rush back towards earth and through his knees.

Then, wooWEE! Back up again.

I find this life of faith akin to being swung like that. 

I don’t know how long it will last, and I honestly can’t say I’m dying for it to last at all (though I see it’s where he wants me for now, and, who knows, perhaps for always).

I doubt anyone who has not experienced “not knowing where money will come from next” will have a clue what it’s truly like. Just as I have no clue what it is like to not know where my next meal is coming from. My situation hasn’t gotten that dire, therefore I haven’t experienced the corresponding feelings.

But I find that, in difficulty, I can’t help but mine for truth. It’s not complaint, and it’s not a a lack of gratitude. It’s processing. And it is probably the “Thank you’s” I get for being honest that keep me writing. Perhaps, in some small way, it’s a piece of what I have to offer.

Tammy and I are so tired. Often one of us falls asleep (for the first time) on a kid’s bed during putting them down. But the other day I fell asleep on my steering wheel in the driveway after getting home from work. It’s a too-little-gas-for-too-long-a-time-yet-here-comes-tomorrow-look-out!-you’ve-got-teens-and-little-ones-and-you-gotta-get-up-anyway kind of life, that’s all. Millions have worse.

Do you remember being swung as a kid? It was fun.

And, if you can recall, if it was someone other than Dad offering the swinging, it was never quite the same, certainly not the first time around. Sometimes that first time never took place, as kids have second thoughts about risking so much with just anyone.

Some aspects of our family economics in 2017 I would compare—to continue the metaphor—to what it might feel like to be swung against my will by a stranger. In other words, not fun at all.

Not that God is a stranger to me, certainly not. But that requirement to trust so fully with so little beneath me has been frankly that new to me. Most of our closest friends, other international workers, probably learned to walk these paths years ago, but we’d always belonged to an organization where you didn’t raise your own support. And I’ve found my feelings stuck and unable to follow what I said I believed. They’d never acclimated to having to have that much real, practical, grocery-money faith. 

Oddly, our “swinging” first became more comfortable when we lost our paychecks on January 1. I guess there was no longer any future kaboom to be afraid of. That loss was upon us.

And then we saw him provide. Miraculously. For the whole month. Big gifts.

Well, here goes. Eight people is still a whole pile of people to be responsible for, and next month is coming. I’m holding on white-knuckled here, but maybe this won’t be the total end of me. 

Like a new family friend had me. I accept the swinging, but I’m apprehensive and waiting for it to end.

February we were provided for in littler ways, but still provided for.

Wonderful. Perhaps a little less of a shock. Like a familiar uncle had me, now.

Thanks, Uncle, for the swings. But just sit-swing me, OK? I’m still going to hold on to my ankles.

March came and not much else—some of the former fears rose up again.

But then, a job.

And five months, now, I’ve been there (long enough to have health insurance, yay). And we’re pretty clear on its inadequacies to put enough groceries on the table. [In fact, I just figured out: since my start date, 2/3 of the money that’s come in our door has been from paychecks, and 1/3 has continued to come from God’s provision through people, with the balance of our needs covered by savings.]

Someone mailed us a check for almost as much as my job provides in a month. We’d just made a trip to speak at their church after many years away, and they wrote a sweet letter reminiscing about Enoch (now 17) and Haddie (15) in their church nursery.

“God told us to make a provision for these children.”

Wow, God.

Then someone gave us $500. We got gift cards for groceries. Others have given $100 or $50, $20 or $25, all summer long. Sprinkling joy over dread and difficulty (what life with a kid coming out of trauma can feel like every single day, though our whole family knows absolutely this is what God has called us to). A Mainland Chinese friend (not wealthy in the least) truly humbled us with a gift of $1000. Someone else gave more.

Wow, God.

Then a guy gave me his motorcycle. Someone gave me a motorcycle.

Now, a motorcycle is not a need. Not even close. But owning one has been a dream of mine since I sold the last one, and it touches core values deep within me like freedom, independence, adventure, solitude.

WOW. GOD! You’re providing wants?

And what’s happening is this: I find my feelings catching up with what I’ve always said I believe:

There Has Never Been Anything to Fear.

Even when Fear knocks on the door yet.

Will these gifts stretch enough to pay this massive family dental bill?

How much of that special summer money is going to get siphoned off by these hearing aids?

Do we ever get any mail that is not a medical or other bill?

Will this kid’s fears drive him to eat 3x the amount of an adult man forever?

Wait A Minute.

Dann, it’s Me. You’re not being swung by some stranger. Yes, all these people showed you kindness, sent you money, but it’s not friends or family running this show. I AM swinging you, don’t you know?

It is beginning to get drilled down. I’ve always known it, of course, but deep down, now, it’s becoming enough to affect me at the knee-jerk level. My first-response thoughts.

This life of faith is the best way to live. Though clearly in the world and to the world it makes no sense. It’s nonsense. But it’s…dare I say, fun? It’s life.

The hard and the harder. The bad and the good.

And if that’s true, doesn’t that mean I want more of it?

I want to not know how he’s going to pull it off?

I want him to build in me more and more and more and more and more trust?

So…even though I’d pick stability (if I could pick such things) and a salary that feels like a better match to my age/education/experience/abilities/whatever (or at least one that could support my family)…I find this competing desire within me as well. At least sometimes. At least when I started writing this entry. I think.

‘Cause—however rapidly towards earth I hurtle—I really do know who’s gripping my ankles.

It’s Dad.

So…more, Dad, more! Swing me more.

Thoughts on 45

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

-Luke 18:8 NASB

I lived the waning months of 2016 with more anxiety and fear than ever before. We were recently home from 13 years in China, and three factors conspired to create the perfect storm: our paychecks/benefits would end on December 31, I remained unsuccessful in my search for work, and I was the head of a family of eight.

Previously in my life, “Be anxious about nothing” had, for the most part, been a slap pretty easily delivered onto your face. I, with a personality bent towards “chill out, people, things’ll work out,” didn’t need a biblical command to help me get there.

Then in 2016, nothing, it seemed, was working out. A difficult adoption. An ended career. Transition home. But no home to land in while kids cried, “This isn’t home!” Looming unemployment. A difficult adoption. Suddenly things were “not working out” in what felt like very serious ways. And for panic-inducing long periods of time.

Anxiety grabbed me like it was looking for a new best friend. I couldn’t shake it. My brain never forgot the right statements, the right truths, or the right verses, but still I could not choke down fear. Not for long.

I quit writing in this blog. Went AWOL on social media (granted, not all that different from my normal). And concentrated on surviving. September, October November, December, falling into bed and with increasing frequency only able to say, “We made it through another day.”

I couldn’t imagine what The End might really be like if it actually came. I’d applied at the hardware store and at factories. I’d put in my name for pastorates in my own denomination, then in others. I didn’t even get a call back from the Diocese on my application to be their maintenance man. Weary from crying out to God and wondering when the answers were coming, I quit answering people’s “How are you?”s. Then I had to give that up and go back to saying “Fine” again. There are only so many burdens that acquaintances can help you shoulder. We’d been needy for so long we’d realized that even most friends cannot be bothered with the same troubles forever.

But there is a widow in Luke 18 who does not give up. Though she has no reason to expect anything from a judge who, quite self-consciously, neither fears God nor fears man, she persists. Keeps asking. The guy finally grants her request to get rid of her.

God, I dislike my reaction of you appearing to me as worse than this guy. What am I supposed to think when it says you will help “quickly”? 

Finally, a year and a half after knowing we’d have to come home due to adopted kids, the unimaginable End arrived. Paychecks ceased and I learned just how much our company had been forking out all those years for great insurance (enough to add another decent used vehicle to the stable if you wanted to every couple of months). That burden now fell to us, for we had just found all applicable doctors after months of work (so no plan-switching just yet), and medi-shares designed for healthy families weren’t a viable option for ours.

And then… we didn’t die. Thanks to a few generous Christmas gifts from family, then three astonishing gifts of four figures each by overseas friends [thank you again Cassia, GTG men, and you-know-who: you guys get it!], we found our former monthly needs basically covered by other means.

Oh, just great. Now I’ve got to wait a whole ‘nother month to see how this plays out? How can I shout, ‘Look what’s happened to us! with Him stringing us along like this?

An idiotic reaction, to be sure, however fleeting.

Then I began to see the idiocy of worry as well.

What, my problems are truly that humongous that the God of the Universe has finally been stymied and cannot be counted on to pull through?


We had come home depleted and desperate for Sabbatical but instead had found ourselves living through the most frantic era of our lives. Granted, life with Everett would have been traumatic anywhere, any time, but what if the rest (the unemployment, the mysterious landing in a place that we are not from, the enrollment in good schools that our kids like and have not had to switch from so far)… what if all that was gift and I wouldn’t see it? I had been too incapable of trusting God so completely. It was too tempting to fear I was being passive, maybe lazy? Surely I could not expect the world to fall in my lap and just rest with no employment! How was I to know what kind of provision lay ahead? 

I didn’t. Still don’t. But now that “the worst” had come to pass (oh, I know, life could get a lot worse), what good can I say my anxiousness did me?

Why not just choose to trust him, then? (Yeah, sounds easy from one’s chair.)

And so I have.

By the power of the Spirit, I’m no longer a slave to fear. And 2017—so far—has been a year without it.

Or income. Am I insane? Or am I finally reaching the heart-place he has been trying to get me to for months?

I’m still self-conscious about not wanting to live with my head buried in sand, but February, too, has seen us provided for. No big gifts, but lots of unexpected little ones, even groceries. We’re alive. Our family of eight hasn’t missed a meal. And—though we battle it back some mornings—we aren’t afraid anymore.

In the parable of the judge and the widow, the NIV includes the adjective persistent when Jesus asks his question about faith. First he asks three questions of the “C’mon, do you really think God is not going to pull through?” variety, and then:

How much of that kind of [the widow’s] persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?

-Luke 18:8 NIV


If the adjective were never-faltering or exemplary or unwavering I’d be sunk. But the word is persistent, and if it’s okay also to falter, and we don’t have to be out in front leading the pack all the time, if my faith can waver and I can ask hard questions in the low times… I’m still good. If it is persistence in faith He’s looking for, then I can take him at his word today even when I struggled to yesterday. He’s going to step in. He’s going to work justice. (How? I have no idea.) But Jesus says his Father is not going to drag his feet. I choose to believe it. I do believe it. 

I turn 45 today, and those are my thoughts.

Surprised by Love

It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t remember a day I hadn’t thought, “Man, I can’t stand this kid.” Or cried out to God asking why He had to give him to us in the first place.

“Jesus, I just don’t want Everett anymore…  I can’t take this.”

It was Unpleasantness never going away. Never, ever affording us a break.

That can wear on a soul.

My only feeling prior to a most recent three-day weekend? Dread.

Not that he was, in the big scheme of things, a shoe-in to rise to that status of “top stressor. We’ve had our share of other common major stressors of late.

Any one of: cultural re-entry OR endless living out of suitcases OR moving (four times) OR enrolling one’s kids in three new schools OR starting over in a new state OR switching careers OR looming unemployment could have risen to the top. But they didn’t. (Our life has that whole list, by the way.) Even concurrently they failed to ever oust Everett from the top.

He was more difficult than everything else put together in an unusually difficult summer.

In a season of tears, nothing had brought more tears than he had.

Finally, this past weekend, a break.

Not a long one, mind you. Not even the whole weekend. Just a one-day conference, six-and-a-half hours. Three speakers and a musician talking about the Deeper Life. The registration webpage had called to us so loudly we knew we had to go, even at five-and-a-half hours away.

It was too short a trip to be called a getaway, but it felt like one to us just the same. Long enough to take a few deep breaths. A chance, after running, running, running since spring, to renew a bit. Recharge some. Rest from Everett and retreat from the grind, if only for some hours.

“God, please meet with us.”

“God, restore us.”

The only problem with prayers like that is that I never know what God might decide to bring up. It might not be what I expect or want (case in point).

Sure enough, God spoke—gently, subtly, constantly—but (at first to my disappointment) almost exclusively about Everett.

My “love” for Everett was exposed as no love at all. I’d always been patient with him, sure. Good to him. Kind. Helpful with all his needs during emotional outbursts. Protective, insulating him from the harm that his tantrums directed even at his own self.

But I saw that for weeks I’d been insulating him from something else, too.


I wasn’t for him. Not fully, not really. I said all the right things, but I wasn’t deeply hoping and longing for him to be put back together, I was secretly longing for my pre-Everett life and wanting that back.

That isn’t love.

Then, in contrast to my weak shortcomings, I saw God’s love for Everett. His desire for redeeming all the trauma. For healing and binding up that broken heart. Restoring shatteredness.

And the vessel for His love?


All along it was supposed to have been being me.

I’d become more of a reservoir for resentment. Openly bemoaning the weight of his existence on my life as his exhaustless neediness pushed my despair ever deeper.

I may have known truths in my head, but I’d proven powerless, not to mention disinterested, in scraping up any better.

Frankly, I needed rescuing.

And that’s what I got.

Coming back from that conference, I saw him with new eyes. I could now see this much truer version of someone I’d quit trying to see through God’s eyes at all.

A week ago I was failing absolutely to love him, but now I am not. I actually want to love one very unlovable (in my strength) kid. And, color me shocked, he himself IS so much more lovable, dare I almost say easy to love? I wouldn’t have expected that part. I truly was handed a supernatural, kingdom, other-than-me love.

Everett is not beyond hope.

And neither am I.