Counting the Costs…

I’m about to share a lot of personal stuff, but this blog is not for my glory. This blog is for God’s glory. Please read it as such.

Last month, March of 2014, we finished a financial journey that was started in September of 2011. We mailed in our last loan payment for our adoption. It was a huge relief, and it was a moment we thought might never come.

This is a breakdown of the costs associated with bringing our children home.

I’m going to talk in percentages, not actual dollar amounts… that way it is inflation insensitive. Also, most people can probably figure out, pretty closely the dollar figures anyway if they do a little research.

What I would term an “adoption cost” would be everything we needed to do to get five children in our home with the means to care for them… that represents 100% of the cost of adoption, and it breaks down like this:

EXPENSES:

1. Normal Adoption Fees and Expenses (36.98%) – These are all of the costs of the actual adoption from Colombia. They include the fees we paid to our adoption agency, they include home studies, psychological evaluations, and dossier work, and they include our lawyer costs while in country and re-adoption after.

2. Additional Fees for Additional Children (3.86%) – The cost listed above is for one child. Every child needed to have a checkup from the doctor, a passport, and associated paperwork. These were the costs that we had to do four more times in order to bring all the kids home.

3. Travel and Time in Colombia (24.87%) – This includes two plane tickets one way and seven plane tickets on the return (Buying seven plane tickets on two days notice can burn a hole in your pocket pretty fast). It also includes the renting of our apartment, all meals, and entertainment while we were in Colombia for seven weeks.

4. 2006 Ford E350 12-Passanger Van (20.89%) – It is true that we already had a car, but if we had only adopted three kids or fewer, we probably wouldn’t have needed to upgrade the car we had (2007 Toyota Matrix). We were trying to be responsible, so we bought one a little older with low miles (46K) so we could pay for it outright without financing, but in the end, we should have spent a few more dollars and gotten a more reliable car. We have since had to replace this vehicle, as chronicled here, but the new van is not included in these costs.

5. Conversion of Breezeway (4.36%) – Since we would be needing both spare bedrooms in our little, 1300-square-foot house, we were looking for a way to add a little more space. Fortunately, there was a covered breezeway between the garage and our kitchen that we were able to enclose and make into an office/mud-room and gain about 80 more square feet of space. We did all of the labor, so we were only out the cost of materials. That project was shown here and here.

6. Interest on Loans (4.19%) – We work hard to live debt free as much as possible, but unfortunately, our adoption moved a little faster than our saving. We took out two loans. One, we took out when we realized our adoption was going to be complete in less than a year. The other we took out right before we went to Colombia, concerned about not knowing how long we would be there. Our hope was to not use much of it, and put the money back as soon as we got it out, but unfortunately we used most of that second loan too.

7. Clothes, Beds, Toys, and Other Random Home Goods (4.86%) – This encapsulates all of the things that a married couple doesn’t need but a family of seven does. Fortunately, we were very blessed with a number of people giving us toys, beds, mattresses, and clothes, but we still had a few things we needed to buy. Some of it was spent on buying a freezer for the garage. Some of it was used to put up shelves in the garage. We tried to be thrifty, but I have to confess, we did buy a pretty nice camera since all we had was Beth’s phone, and we were expecting quite a few memories to be made.

OK. That should add up to 100%.

So that’s the hole. Now let’s talk about the shovel. How did we pay for it?

We had some rules…

1. We never asked anyone for money. We did ask people for help with time and donations for a garage sale (more about that later), but we never asked for money. God has blessed me with an amazing job (again, not my glory, but His), and because God has blessed us so well financially, we felt it would not honor Him to do this. That doesn’t mean we think it is wrong or are against it in any way… we just felt like all other avenues needed to be pursued before we did. Having said that, a number of people, out of the goodness of their heart, blessed us financially, but it was unsolicited and purely their decision. I’m thankful to say, we never got to that point.

2. We never stopped giving… Our tithes and offerings are our business, so I won’t get into the details about how much we give or to what ministries we support, but all you need to know is we follow our convictions and have peace about what we do. Having said that, we didn’t change anything to our giving practices during the adoption process. We believed that God put adoption on our hearts, but her never told us to hit the pause button on participating in the work He is doing that is already on our hearts.

3. We looked for odd jobs. Beth was able to work at the college bookstore a few weeks before the semester began. She also worked a little at church over the summer. I worked over the holidays at the hardware store in town. I was also able to do something that I have grown to love over the past few years – teach college. I teach one or two math courses a semester at the university.

4.  We were as thrifty as we could be. I built the breezeway. I built a lot of storage. Beth, for a few Christmases made presents for others to save money. She shopped on garage sales, Craig’s List, and Facebook to get the things we have. We haven’t eaten out much… About two times a week I have to tell my coworkers I can’t go out to eat with them (I’m sorry to say, but they’ve stopped asking). We got our lifestyle as lean as we could so that every extra dollar was going to the adoption. It was also good practice for learning how life would be when kids got here anyway!

So, here’s the breakdown of how we paid for it all:

ASSETS:

1. 2007 Toyota Matrix (4.09%) – Since we bought the great big van, we no longer needed the little car. We were able to sell her to a sweet young lady who is in our Sunday School class a couple of years ago. It’s nice to still see the little car at church.

2. Garage Sale (11.73%) – This was Beth’s brain-child, and it was far more effective than any of us thought it would be. She thought it would be a good idea to ask friends and family for donations of old junk that they didn’t want to sell in a garage sale. We wound up getting donations from over 30 families, and had the largest garage sale I have ever seen. It was in the garage, front yard, driveway, and back yard. I’m pretty sure we upset the neighbors when they couldn’t pull into their driveways for all of the cars. It was crazy, and it raised about four times more than we expected.

3. Employee Stock (7.85%) – My company was kind enough to give me some stock in the company as a thank-you for my work in 2009. When they gave it to me, the only rule was, it had to sit for at least three years before I could touch it. As God would have it, the three years wrapped up at exactly the time we needed it.

4. Company Adoption Program (12.78%) – Again, God has blessed me so much with the place I work. My company has an adoption program that pays employees a set amount of money to go to qualified adoption expenses after the adoption is finalized. After I filled out the paperwork, I was shocked to find out that the amount was per child! Again, this was something I was not counting on, but helped in a big way.

5. Love Offering (3.45%) – Our church, during our time in Bogota took up a love offering for us and sent us the money. We did not ask them to do that, but they did, and not only did it help us out financially, it lifted our spirits when we were getting pretty discouraged.

6. Gifts and Showers (9.99%) – Our friends at church and my friends at work threw us showers in which they gave us a number of things that the kids needed. In addition, they also gave us a lot of cash to cover adoption costs. Beyond that, a great number of people gave us financial gifts through the adoption process, even though we never asked. We even had another Sunday School class (that we don’t go to) take up a collection for us. By the time it was all done, it was a pretty hefty portion of the costs.

7. Hard work and saving (50.11%) – This is where the extra jobs and overtime came in. We paid for as much as we could as things came up, but the majority of this went to cover the two loans we took out. As said above, the last loan payment was paid last month, 18 months after we got back home.

We also had some other help along the way. The amazing people I work with donated their vacation time so I could draw a paycheck while I was out of country. They blessed me with 9 weeks which allowed me to stay in Bogota with my wife the entire time as well as have a couple of weeks at home when we got back to make sure everyone was settled in before returning to work.

It was hard work. It took a lot of sacrifices on our part, but a LOT of people have a hand at bringing these five beautiful children home to us. We are forever grateful to them, and to God who has blessed us so richly to accomplish his God-sized vision in our lives (if I may rip off Pastor Johnny’s phrase).

Easter in Bluebonnets - Texas tradition.

Easter in Bluebonnets – A Texas tradition.

It’s amazing to think that at one time, they were orphans. Thank you to all, and thank you to God.

To quote a famous credit-card commercial, Five beautiful children finally home: priceless!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Byproducts…

Byproduct (n) – an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else.

This past weekend, our church did a dinner theater. Our church does a dinner theater every year, and it is a simple little fundraiser for our students to raise money to pay for church camp in the summer. Since I teach the seniors at our church, I always help to some degree. Every year the students come up with a bunch of silly fun things that are loosely tied together to create an entertaining show, but this year, we added a little more structure, a lot more work, and tried to make it something bigger than we have ever done before… we made a murder mystery.

A few adults and I started working on an idea for a murder mystery in October, and around December, we had the rough outline of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. I spent a few days pounding on it, and before long we had a 41 page script. In January, I spoke to the students and requested nine brave souls to be the heavy lifters in our church play. From that point on, every Sunday for two hours a day, behind closed doors, nine students and I worked on bringing our play to life. Over the past month, we have had two five-hour practices to make sure we get it right. In our play, we had a “shell-game” of drinks, and we had color-coded cups and a seven-chart diagram to make sure we got that part perfect (to make the staged murder accurate with the poison being added to the right drink). The week of, we met at the church at 6:30 am and practiced. Then the performances came, and for almost two days straight we were incarcerated with one another, making sure everything was right and clean.

The performances went well, the church was entertained, and we raised a record amount for the students to go to camp.

At the end of the last show, my nine students, six of which are seniors, pulled me up and gave me a huge basket of stuff I probably shouldn’t have (Mt. Dew, chips, candy, and movies) and gave me a card. What they wrote is between them and I, but all you need to know is I was humbled… super humbled.

In the days following, my emotions have been all over the place. With the realization that the play was over and it was one of the last things that I would be doing with my students (some of which have been a huge part of my life for the past three years), I’ve been lamenting the fact that these students that have meant so much to me will be moving on in a few short months. It felt like ripping off a Band-aid. My goal was to put on a great church play that had a few Biblical truths in it (Product), but I wasn’t intending to get so attached to these students… Please don’t misunderstand. I loved and cared about them before, but I had no idea how much that would grow through this show.

Byproduct.

Sitting in church tonight, I was still pretty depressed about things. All I could think about is how special these kids are to me and how I was soon to be a part of their past. I even got a head start on feeling bad about my own children moving on, and my oldest is just eight! Afterwards, one of my nine students came up to me and thanked me for everything once again. What I told her was definitely not my words but God’s (I think it was a Romans 8:26 kind of moment):

“I started teaching youth to make a difference in your lives. I didn’t have any idea it would make a difference in my own life.”

Byproduct.

After talking to her, I felt a lot better. Even if God takes these students to far and distant places where I will never see them again, I realized that I am the beneficiary of being a part of their lives, not the other way around. I remembered that when you rip off a Band-aid, a little of your skin goes with the Band-aid, but what I forgot was a little bit of the Band-aid stays with you. Not just these kids, but all the students I have had in my six years of teaching have blessed me so much, and I would not give up the momentary sorrow I feel right now and not have the amazing blessing I have received.

Byproduct.

The most important investment you can make is in people.

Be in the business of people. It’s hard work. There are times it is frustrating. There are times when it isn’t fun. Sometimes (like now for me) it hurts. It takes a lot of time and more than a passing smile in the hall when you see someone, but there is nothing more important in the Kingdom of God (other than God Himself) than people.

People sometimes wonder why Beth and I got so many kids when we adopted. They bless us so much. They are my family. They are my investment. I can’t imagine life without them or without the blessings I have received by having them.

As for Miranda, Blake, Abby, Nick, Claire, Karah, Anna, Abel, and Tyler – Go out and change the world. When you’re done, look me up when you get to heaven. I’ll be saving you guys a seat in my section when you get there! I can’t wait to spend eternity with you.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty