Sunday, April 21, 2013

'Cause We're Crazy Like That

Well, we are a'rockin' and a'rollin' our way to becoming homeowners.  I think this is really going to happen! 

Right now, we are just waiting on the termite inspection report to be reworded, sent back to our bank, and then the loan needs to be signed by the USDA, which could take up to a week right now.  We are hoping to close by the first week of May, but we're good to wait until the end of October (when our lease is up), if that's what it takes!

During a meal at our favorite wings' place/family decision-making home base, we started talking about our adoption timeline.  We had originally talked about starting the process in August or September, but we were starting to doubt that, since we aren't getting any money back when we close.  The house doesn't need to have major repairs done, but it does need to have some work done with the roof over the front porch and with some of the electrical work.  So our August plan turned into, "Well, let's see where we are with things.  We can always push it back if we need to." 

Which seems logical, but kind of made me sick to my stomach. 

And I just couldn't shake it.  Usually, if we decide something like that, I feel a peace about it. 

Not this time.

So, before bed that night, I blurted out, "We are officially back on the poverty diet!  WE ARE GONNA START THE ADOPTION PROCESS IN AUGUST!" 

And my dear, sweet husband said, "Okay.  Sounds good."  

Now, I don't like talking about money any more than the next person.  But based on 2007 data from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, roughly 30% of Americans have considered adoption.  You know how many actually do?  Only 2%!  And you know the Number One Reason that stands in the way? 


So, to break it down a bit and demystify some of this, I want to show you where all this money goes (for an international adoption):

For our process, we'll end up using two adoption agencies.  One will be a local agency that will do our initial paperwork and our home study, which basically asks for every scrap of information from Adam and I, to determine our fitness as parents, and to match us with the kid or kids that we are the best fit for.  After the mortgage application process, Adam and I feel like we're gonna be PROS when it comes to this!

So, with Agency 1, we have the application fee ($300) and the home study fee ($1500 + mileage).  There could also be post-placement home visits, depending on what our country requires.  Those are $225 + mileage.  Lemme tell you that I am SO GRATEFUL that we live where we do, because some states (and some agencies) have rates that are up to three times what I'm quoting here!

So then we move on to Agency 2, which works directly with the agency in our country to help facilitate the adoption.  We start with a $3,000 non-refundable US Processing Fee, which helps to pay administrative costs at both the US agency and the in-country agency.  It also covers any translation services with our dossier (giant packet of paperwork).  There is a fee ($100-$700) with collecting all the required documents for our dossier, which includes our marriage license, birth certificates, things like that.  We have to complete an application with US immigration to make it legal to bring our child home, which can range from $805-$1250. 

Then there's an adoption program fee, which can range from $9,890 to $20,500, depending on which country you adopt from.  I know most people are thinking, "Holy crap!  Why so much?"  This money goes to support a variety of expenses, including the care of our child, donations to the orphanage, translation services, visa services, and a lot more!  Right now, we're eyeing Ethiopia and Uganda, which both have program fees of around $10,000.  This fee gets paid in full when we accept the referral and are matched with a child, which can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.

We also have to attend adoption education classes, either in person or online, which can range between $150 and $500, depending on how many classes we choose to take beyond the required minimum. 

So, at the very least, we are looking at around $16,000. 

Oh wait!  We actually have to TRAVEL to go get our kid(s)!  Fortunately, when travel is arranged by an agency, the costs ($3,000-$15,000) tend to be much lower than if Adam and I booked our flights ourselves.  There is such a huge range in possible prices for travel, because different countries have different travel requirements.

If you wanna have your first panic attack, price a round-trip flight to Uganda.  I dare ya.   

So, grand total, we're looking at a ballpark of between $19,000 and $31,000, which kind of makes it hard to breathe.  We have set our goal at $20,000 because it seemed like a nice, round number.

But, since we're crazy like that, we set the goal to have the money we need by the end of the year, which basically means that we need to save $500/week for the rest of the year.  The great thing is that we can start the process in August, and we don't need all of the money up front on Day 1.

We started the week with about $4,100 in our adoption account, which is a sacred account that doesn't get touched, regardless of what's happening.  As of right now, we are at $5,100!  

Not too shabby for our first week! 

 If you are interested in becoming a part of our adoption story, we have a variety of ways that you can contribute, support, and encourage! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Choosing to be Grateful

A while back, I wrote this post about how our friends keep asking us about our adoption; even though, from the outside, it looks like nothing is happening.  And while it's hard to keep clarifying our timeline and pointing out the microscopic movement in this whole process, we are so appreciative of those who continue to be so hopeful with us.  For those who wait, expectantly, faithfully, with us, waiting for the time when we can say, "It's done.  We did it!"

It's kind of starting to feel that way with the house too.  People keep asking, "Have you closed yet?  When will you close?  Is the house yours yet?"  The answers:  Nope.  We have no idea.  Nope.  It's so easy for us to get caught up in the end game and to not see the movement that is happening.  A good friend said, "I need for you to get this house and your babies, because I don't think my heart can take much more of this!"

I know the feeling.  But, while we wait, I want to take some time to point out some positively AWESOME things that have happened in the last two months.

*  Let's start with our realtor.  Since we have never done this before, and we've only lived in our area of about five years, we still don't have a lot of community contacts.  Fortunately, a friend of mine is the secretary at a big real estate office, so I asked her.  She gave me a list of about six people that she thought would really fit well, specifically with Adam and I.  I am always amazed at the ways that people are put into our lives to be able to look out for us.  I narrowed the list to three and had Adam pick one.  He picked our realtor because "he has a kind face."  Indeed, he does.  And our realtor has been a rock star on our behalf...working early in the morning and late at night...fighting for us, helping us understand, explaining things to these two dumb kids who have no idea what to do with a house this big.

But the coolness doesn't stop there.  Early on, Adam had mentioned our plan for adoption, when trying to justify why we needed a house with this many bedrooms (six!), since we don't presently have any children (other than the cats!).  A few weeks after that initial conversation, our realtor sent us this very heartfelt emailing.  He said that he very rarely shares details about his personal life, but that he felt led to share with us that his granddaughter was adopted and that he wanted to connect me with his daughter, who is an adoptive momma!

** We have hit every stinkin' delay that we possibly could in the process of buying this house.  (I've been cautioned to not say that, lest something else go horribly wrong.)  But the cool thing is that every delay actually benefits us, because that will decrease the time that we will be paying a mortgage AND for our apartment.  And, honestly, this is good practice for the adoption process, which will be pretty much like this for over a year. 

*** Because of the loan we are using, we had to make a deal that resulted in us not getting any money at the closing for repairs that need done.  This is a total bummer, but Adam and I had gotten very comfortable with the idea that we would do whatever was required for us to get this house, as long as we got this house.  So we are trusting that there will be a way to get those repairs done without that extra money, and we are choosing to focus on having a mortgage that is $10,000 less than we anticipated.

****Another friend of mine messaged me the other day, asking about how the house-buying process was going.  As we were chatting, she kind of blurted (can you blurt when you're chatting online?), "Have you ever thought about adopting from Ukraine?"  While Adam and I have ideas about where we might adopt from, we are also open to God's insistence on a specific child, in a specific location.  So when people make suggestions, we are always open to truly hearing it, because I have seen God use other people to point us in very specific directions.  Turns out, a friend of hers is doing some mission work in Ukraine, specifically with orphans, and she felt led to point me in that direction.  We are so grateful to people who listen to their hearts and share things with us, even when they (and we) have no idea where this fits into our family story.

*****On Sunday, my best friend invited me to go to her church, since they were having a Music Worship Night.  She had no idea, but Sunday was a really hard day for me and this was EXACTLY what I needed.  So, basically, a minute into Song #2, I was bawling.  Fortunately, my friends aren't afraid of my tears.  She just looked at me and said, "We sang this song this morning, and I thought of you." 

 ******Two weeks ago, when the bank was saying ugly things like "worst case scenario" and "if we have to cancel the loan" I was feeling pretty desperate.  It's so hard to be in a position where other people get to make BIG decisions that affect you and your future children and to feel like there's absolutely NOTHING that you can do to sway their decisions.  I remembered a little snippet from Joyce Meyer a year ago.  She said, "Why do people say, 'All we can do is pray' like it's some kind of small, last-resort choice?"  Prayer and God's provision in our lives is really all we EVER have.  And it's enough.

But I will say that, when you start following God's will for your family, man, you are going to hit some serious roadblocks.  I was starting to feel like it was really just us; but, then, I read a billion blog posts about that exact same thing.  And then I talked to some adoptive mommas that I know and they confirmed my suspicions.  They shared stories of disrupted adoptions, panic attacks, broken appliances, late night marathon prayer sessions, and all sorts of craziness that was intended to keep them from adopting.  I kind of unloaded my fears with them a bit and asked for some serious prayer on our behalf.  Later that evening, the final underwriting approval on Adam and I was approved.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but I feel like Adam and I are in for the fight of a lifetime over these kids; who, most likely, aren't even born yet.  We have yet to fill out one single scrap of adoption paperwork, and we are already encountering this kind of resistance.  It's gonna be one wild ride!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, support, and obedience to that nudge in your heart on our behalf.  


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Gift of a Very Intentional Year

It's so weird to think that, this time last year, we were planning for a deployment. 

We had planned to celebrate our anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and both of our birthdays...separated.  We were resigned to this; because, as hard as it would be, it would provide us with the finances to purchase our first home and cover the cost of our adoption.

But then, in true Army fashion, the deployment got cancelled.  And while I was grateful and relieved, I was disappointed in some ways.  It did not seem financially possible for us to do either of those things--let alone both.

And, yet, if you've been following along with us, you know that it is HAPPENING!

I've been hesitant to talk too much about the purchase of our home, because it looked like it was going to fall through at every possible turn.

Everyone kept telling us to find a house that we "could live with" and not to get caught up in a house that we "are in love with."  Well, I can tell you that I would not have fought this hard for a house that I only sorta liked.  Man, we are in love.

This house is made up of everything that Adam and I have dreamt about, both out loud and quietly in the secret places of our hearts.  This house has things that we didn't even know we wanted.

This house was picked out with one very intentional purpose.  Filling it.  I don't know how other people go about picking out homes, but we did it by imagining it with (at least) four extra little people in it.  We pictured future holidays and bedrooms and dinners around a table and bath time and birthday parties and shelves to hold games and puzzles. 

I think we both agree that the best thing about this house is that it has so much space, both inside and out.  Technically, it has 6 bedrooms, though two of the rooms are tiny, and one will be converted into a master bathroom, since we only have one full bath and one toilet in a closet quarter bath.

The house sits on slightly less than 4 acres.  Now, despite the fact that neither one of us knows how to operate a riding lawnmower, this is actually ideal.  We've already marked out the space for the garden, fruit trees and bushes, and we have ample space left over for things like swing sets, practicing t-ball, and room to just run around.  Did I mention there's a pond, perfect for observing all sorts of wildlife?

We have three outbuildings:  a pole barn, an old carriage house, and what looks like an old chicken coop.  Right before we found this house, I had been looking at additional office space to open an office that offered counseling and space for some creative art stuff.  Well, the carriage house is absolutely perfect for that, if I would decide to follow through on it.  Perfect.

This journey has been full of so many nerve-wracking moments:

1.  We had to be below a certain income to qualify for our loan.  Several vendors would only look at our total income, which was over the limit, but since I'm self-employed, you have to look at the adjusted income, which is just barely under the limit.

2.  We qualified for only slightly more than the exact amount of the purchase price of the home.

3.   Adam's work history got called into question, since he's in school and working part-time.  This led into a conversation about "worst case scenarios" and "cancelling the loan," which honestly made me want to throw up.  Fortunately, my business is up 70% (amazing!) from last year, so it was enough to satisfy the lender.

So we're looking to close on the house before the end of April and then moving in by the end of May or beginning of June.  Which means...we can start the adoption process toward the end of the summer!  Wow!

So, in the course of this very intentional year that we weren't supposed to have together, we paid off a ridiculous amount of debt, saved up a bunch of money, and bought the perfect house.

And the best part?  We got to do it all...together.