Thursday, 25 November 2010

We Are Thankful for...Abundance

As we all gather with family and friends around our Thanksgiving tables, we will be thinking about all the blessings in our lives: the people, the provision, and all the extras we enjoy. We all know that Americans live in extreme abundance. We all have access to clean water, free educations, and more material goods than we need. Yet, for much of the year, we often forget all that we have and focus on what we don't have. I include myself in this list. Just yesterday, as I stepped outside into the hail/wintery mix to throw a load of laundry in the washer, I was lamenting the fact that I don't own a washer and dryer, that I have to walk outside all winter to do load after load of laundry, when I remembered scrubbing Tommy's parasite poop covered clothes in a little bucket over and over, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry, then having to make sure they were ironed before anyone wore them to kill any mango worm eggs (worms that burrow into your skin to incubate and then crawl out when they hatch), and I realized that I shouldn't complain. I have a lot to be thankful for.

I originally started the remainder of this post about a week ago, inspired by a poll I saw next to some article posted for National adoption awareness month. I saw an (admittedly unscientific) poll posted online asked parents, "If you haven't adopted, what is the biggest reason why?" The primary reason, cited by 56% of respondents: "money, money, money, money!"

In response to that, I decided we need to share our testimony of God's provision for Tommy's adoption, and I decided to post this today because, of course, Tommy is at the top of our "thankful for" list, and because we are so thankful for the abundant provision we received during our adoption process. Today is a day to reflect on one's blessings, and this is an area where we have been blessed beyond what we could imagine. So, here is the post I wrote, minus the original intro which explained the "money, money, money, money" poll referenced above, originally just titled "Abundance:"

I truly believe that if God is calling you to adopt he will provide, just as he provides for all the rest of our needs, and often for our wants as well. Yes, part of that provision may come from your income, which can probably stretch farther than you think. Most adopting families cut back and make sacrifices, but often that is not enough to come up with the huge amounts required to adopt. Yet, the more families I talk to about this subject the more evidence I see for not letting money hold you back when it comes to deciding whether or not you should pursue an adoption, because I have heard so many stories of provision that echo what we experienced. Anyhow, here is our story:

When the doctors first told Jeff and me that the condition that killed Leah was genetic, we shared with them that we would prefer to adopt rather than pursue the options they had for us. They thought we were crazy, but we had always wanted to adopt after having biological children, so it seemed to us that God was simply accelerating our adoption timeline. I called a large Christian agency and shared our desire to adopt with an intake employee, and talked a bit about our living and financial situation. She told me she was sorry, but they wouldn't be able to work with us, because our apartment was too small and they did not believe that a couple in our position would be able to meet our financial obligations (i.e. pay them their money). At that point, I believed that the reason we wouldn't be adopting was "money, money, money, money!"

This was terribly discouraging. Our health insurance would pay for various fertility options, but that was not something Jeff and I felt comfortable pursuing, and we truly preferred the idea of adoption. We thought through our alternatives and came to a place where we believed we had no good options. A few weeks later we shared this with our small group during prayer time, and a friend in the group, who also happened to be a social worker employed by a foster care agency, indignantly responded that she was sure we could adopt and that she was positive that the information we had been given regarding our eligibility was off-base. That was the encouragement I needed to make a few more phone calls. The next agency I called told me exactly how they would "fix" the "problem" of our apartment, and that as long as we weren't in debt and had some savings they weren't concerned about us paying our bills. Although we didn't end up working with that agency, that phone call gave us hope, and we began seriously researching adoption. We found both an international and home study agency and got started.

Money was once again a consideration for us as we looked at adopting from various countries. Some countries require that couples have a significant amount of assests, which disqualified us, or have yearly income standards that we could not meet. I had initially wanted to adopt from either South Korea or China, but we were ineligible for both of those countries. Uganda did not have those requirements, so we were able to pursue adoption there.

The projected cost of Tommy's adoption was roughly $28,000. Jeff and I were both still in graduate school, and making only slightly (very slightly) more each year than the projected cost of the adoption. We did manage to live on less than we made, barely, but God always seemed to provide when things were tight, and thus we did have money in our savings accounts to get started.

Amazingly, it seemed like whenever we withdrew significant funds to pay for adoption costs: our homestudy, visa, or to make agency payments, those funds would be replaced. Early on some very generous friends and a relative provided enough to cover our homestudy costs and first payment to our agency. Then we recieved a grant from Show Hope, and then another grant from an organization partnered with our international agency, which covered the rest of our agency costs. Right before we traveled more friends and family pitched in, with both money for travel and donations of clothes and shoes for us to take to the orphanage. Finally, when we came home (and faced all those credit card bills), we were given an incredible grant from the St. Andrew's adoption fund. Of course, we did spend more traveling and finalizing the adoption than we received in grants/donations, but in just a few short months we will file our taxes and apply for our adoption tax credit. Between the credit, the grants, and the personal donations, the cost of Tommy's adoption will be covered. Or at least, all of the costs that I remembered to properly record, and I'm sure I wrote down almost everything.

God's provision was abundant.

The funny thing is that I didn't do the math on Tommy's adoption costs until about a week ago- just in time for adoption awareness month, and right after I happened to see that poll. If you know me and my love for number crunching, that might be surprising, but it was a really daunting task. What really inspired me to slog through four envelopes of receipts, most of which were in UGX and not US dollars, was the desire to be ready to send in our taxes the day after we get Jeff's W-2s. We want that refund! I kept meaning to do it, so that I could write a post and let everyone know how amazingly God provided (I knew he did even before I ran the numbers), but I forgot about it, then I didn't have the energy, and so on. In the end, apparently, the only thing that motivates me is "money, money, money, money!"

On a serious note, the adoption tax credit for adoptions finalizing this year and next is higher than ever: $13,170. In countries that allow independent adoption, fees can be closer to $15,000 or 20,000, depending on airfare costs and the price of home studies and US court adoption in your area. Domestic adoption programs for children of color can be less than $20,000 as well. Foster to adopt is very low cost- often free. Adoption can be affordable. All that is to say, if you feel the call, don't let "money, money, money, money!" hold you back.

On this Thanksgiving, I am so thankful that money did not hold us back. I'm thankful that we have Tommy, and that he has us, and that he will soon have a brother. I'm thankful he is now well nourished and growing, that his body is continuing to heal, and that he feels secure and loved. My list could go on and on, because we have much to be grateful for, but I need to get going because it is time to eat and celebrate.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Chasity said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! As you know we are facing this and looking down the road there are moments when I wonder at the money...yet I know deep, deep down that it's God's will and HE will provide!

Thanks again for being a blessing of mine!

Haley Ballast said...

this is awesome amy -- i love hearing how God provided for you guys! i get so frustrated when people say they want to adopt but can't afford it... ultimately we decided we couldn't afford NOT to because we knew it was what God was calling us to do, and ignoring that call would mean missing out on what He had for us.