As a dad, one of the most common concerns from prospective adoptive fathers is on the finances relative to adoption and larger families. This provides some perspective on our experience:
This month will be the 10th anniversary of when we moved into our current house. We built this house, and it was the perfect size for our family of four. (I should clarify when I say “we built” that I did not wield a hammer or screwdriver at any point during the construction process… which is probably why this house is still standing. My main job was to check my spreadsheets each night and explain to Anne why we could not afford any of the upgrades she suggested… ridiculous and superfluous requests like a 5th bedroom.)
When we decided to adopt our daughter Mia a few years later, we knew we would have to make some compromises. So with apologies to our parents who might visit, we moved an old futon into the basement and converted the guest room into Mia’s. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.
When we started talking about a second adoption two years later, we immediately assumed that we would need to move. With our suburban bias that every kid needed to have their own bedroom, a fourth child would never fit in a four bedroom house.
But after some prayer and consideration, we identified that there was a loft area that could be converted into a very small bedroom. (I use the term “bedroom” with some reservation. A realtor would probably list it as a “small walk-in closet.”) We had the loft converted, purchased another twin mattress, and went to China to bring home Will.
When we started to talk about a third adoption, moving seemed both obvious and inevitable. But when we started looking, we quickly realized that there are two kinds of houses – ones that can comfortably accommodate a family of seven and very different ones that we can afford. This led to a frustrating conclusion… we could fit a fifth child into our budget or into our house… but not both.
After some prayerful consideration, we challenged our assumption that every kid needed their own bedroom. We determined that a family would be more important to a new son or daughter than having their own bedroom. So with this shift, we found a bit more room (if not an additional bedroom) in our four bedroom house.
Our brilliant solution began to erode a few months later when our agency called to ask us about potentially adopting twins. After a bit of research, I concluded that there are no “2 for 1” coupons on adoption. Our $30,000 expense was about to become nearly $60,000. When I put these new numbers into my spreadsheet, I stopped worrying about being able to afford enough bedrooms and started worrying about being able to afford enough beds.
As is probably obvious by now, I am anal, I am cheap, and I really like my spreadsheets. (I would also tell you that I am an engineer, but that would be redundant at this point.)
In fact, I have a spreadsheet for every important decision I’ve ever made… from marrying Anne to buying a used 1997 Honda Accord. (Both required more regular maintenance than I predicted, but both have also proven to be excellent investments.)
When I do make a “life” spreadsheet, I use color to help me. When a decision makes sense, the spreadsheet cells starts to turn green. When it doesn’t make sense, the cells start to turn red.
And the tab for “adopt twins” was completely crimson. Other than a small green cell for “What Jesus would do”, every other indicator suggested that this was a bad idea. Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough bedrooms. Not enough seats in the Accord… or any vehicle other than those white utility vans used by kidnappers. Red. Red. Red.
But when we prayed, we felt like God wanted us to do it. That stupid green cell simply would not go away. And so, facing a sea of red cells, we said “yes.”
And when we did, I picture that He started to smile. Smiling at our realization that we could not do it on our own. Smiling at the gap between what we had and what we needed… and his extraordinary ability to close that gap. As he watched me struggle over my spreadsheets, perhaps He smiled because this was not the first time his people stood before a Sea of Red waiting for a miracle.
And then He showed up… big time. Within weeks, a couple of anonymous checks arrived in the mail. My company’s stock hit a seasonal high, and I made more than expected from a bonus. With each day and week, the red cells turned to yellow and then to green. By the time we stepped on the plane for China, we had all of the money we needed to bring home Sam and Ellie. No coupon required.
And the bedrooms, they seemed to multiply as well. We saw the power of bunk beds to make two beds where there used to be one. And we saw the power of love when Will and Adam agreed to share a room, Abby crammed her teenaged life into a severely downsized space, and Mia agreed to move into the closet… all joyful downgrades in order to upgrade our family.
Incredibly, we even found an extra leaf in the basement for our kitchen table. A leaf wrapped in bubble wrap that neither Anne or I remembered from when we purchased the table. A leaf that turned our table for six into a table for eight.
As I reflect upon it, I am reminded of the gospel story from Mark 6 where the disciples are worried that there is not enough food to feed the thousands of people who have followed Jesus out into a remote location.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”…
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.
Perhaps my favorite part of this passage (other than the guy doing the math about how many months of wages it would cost… I like that guy… he even did that without a spreadsheet), is how Jesus responds to the request from the disciples.
When it is clear to them that they do not have enough, Jesus challenges their assumption and says, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”
And in the end, he takes what they have and shows them that it is more than enough. All are satisfied and there is extra to spare.
That’s how Jesus works some times. Sometimes he does it with five loaves, sometimes he does it with two fish, and sometimes he does it with four bedrooms.
If you had told me 10 years ago that eight people would be living in this house, my first response would be, “Where did our family move?” But the truth is that it works. We have everything we need and there’s even some extra to spare… but not enough for a 9th person… right, God?