By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

Not the Year I Planned For

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun’s essay, Laughter and Singing for All the Mountains to Hear, was the winner in The Well’s Call for Stories event. We catch up with Dorcas here in a blogpost first published at

For our household, 2015 was supposed to be the year of the family.

After nearly a decade of unpredictable adventures in Silicon Valley and abroad — mostly thanks to my husband’s social enterprise startup — we were finally ready to settle down. This was supposed to be the year we found extended time to spend together with our toddler son, had a second child, bought our first home, and finally found that mythical work-life balance that has eluded us for so many years.
When I was looking ahead to this year in the waning days of 2014, the word I felt God press upon my heart was rooted. The word comforted me, as I saw how neatly it fit into our vision for the upcoming twelve months. We would be rooted in Christ as we put down our own roots as a little family.
At about the same time, my husband heard a word from God for the new year: rise. We weren’t sure exactly what it meant then, but we sure know now. Recently my husband became the interim CEO of his company. In some families, this might be cause for celebration. For our family, it means more sacrifice, more servanthood, and — painfully, reluctantly, so grumpily — more letting go of the plans we’ve made. My husband’s new role requires that he work even longer hours, travel even more, and carry even more burdens on top of the extensive work and travel and pressure he already manages.
What was supposed to be a year of settling down and taking things easier has, in only three months, turned into a season of mourning. My dreams of domestic tranquility have been postponed, and sometimes I wonder if they are gone completely. Given the uncertainty of the situation, I don’t know when we will ever be able to buy a house. I don’t know when it would be a wise time for us to have another child.
Since I was a young adult, I have labored under the misunderstanding that true service to God always requires pain and suffering — that pain and suffering were good things, were indications of my obedience and righteousness. Through many years of healing, teaching, and wise mentorship, I have finally come to recognize that our God is a God who gives beautiful, wonderful gifts. Suffering may come when we follow Jesus, but this is not his ultimate desire for us. He wants to give us abundance, joy, and peace.
As I look ahead to these upcoming months of solo parenting, of high stress, of giving the best of our time and energy to a company that seems only to want more, I have trouble seeing the God of joy and abundance. I can only see again the God who asks us to sacrifice and give and serve until we are hollowed-out shells.
So powerful is my myopic vision of God in this context that it’s no wonder that he’s crashing down the doors of our lives to make himself known.
My husband and I have spent many nights on our knees in prayer in the last few weeks and months, as well as unabashedly asking our community to join us in prayer — and God is responding to our petitions at a shockingly rapid clip. My husband asked for a couple major problems at work to be resolved. They were. I asked for a project to work on. It showed up in my email inbox within twenty-four hours. We asked that Ned’s recent travels would be fruitful, that my toddler son and I would not only survive but experience sweet moments together while his dad was gone. Done and done. I asked that God would soften my heart toward him, as well as my husband and his company, when I was struggling with bitterness and resentment over all that I was being asked to give up. I can’t say when it happened, or how it happened, but something in my soul feels different these days.
The call from God that I heard to be rooted in 2015 has taken on an entirely different meaning now. He’s asking me to hold on to him, to trust him, to gain nourishment from him — and him alone. He’s reminding me not to find comfort in the temporal things that can pass away in an instant. Even if they are good things, they ultimately will not sustain my soul.
God may have asked our family to lay aside our own dreams in obedience to him this year, but in exchange he is giving us first-row seats to the abundance of his power, faithfulness, and care when we entrust our lives to him. We have sacrificed our earthly dreams — for now — but we have gained a richness of affirmation and faith that extends far beyond the parameters of the finite.
Of course, my husband and I still experience days when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety, exhaustion, and disorienting uncertainty about the future. But when we stop and breathe and remember our Heavenly Father, the God who has conquered even death, we know we’ll be okay. God has shown us in no uncertain terms that he is looking out for us.
All he asks is that I believe his plans for 2015 — and beyond — are better than anything I could have come up with on my own.
Photos by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun.
About the Author
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is a writer and leader whose work with various nonprofits, social enterprises, and faith-based organizations has given her opportunity to engage with a broad range of social issues toward solutions in the areas of homelessness, affordable housing, energy access, youth leadership, HIV/AIDS, and international development. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her social entrepreneur husband and two young sons.
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