Sunday, October 16, 2011

Working Faith

Behind the scenes, something exciting and a wee bit scary (who am I fooling, a LOT scary!) has been going on for Team LaJoy...something that will test our Team Spirit more than usual.  Friday afternoon was a big day for us, and I'd like to share what that is.  I know for most, it wouldn't be all that big a deal, but for us it surely is.

For many families like ours, adoption wipes you out.  It wipes you out emotionally, it can wipe you out physically, and it certainly wipes you out financially...literally.  Long ago, when we decided to adopt Kenny after having adopted Matt and Josh, we knew we were taking on a lot, not just in adoption costs but in the costs to raise another child.  Believe me when I say we weighed this decision heavily, after all, we were in our early 40's, already had two mouths to feed, and adoption loans to pay off.  We also had nothing saved for retirement.  We spent what we had managed to save on bringing our first two children home.  What were we doing considering another?  Shouldn't we be wise and stop while we were already behind?  What about college?  How can you afford another, we were asked.

How do you explain God's calling to those who don't ever hear it for themselves?

We prayed a lot, we listened a lot, and we realized that we would feel as if we were missing something if we didn't go ahead and do it, especially if the sole reason we opted not to adopt again was due to money.  We realized that we must heed what we sensed was God trying to say to us on this, and we knew it was going to take us to a very different level of trust in our relationship with God, forcing us to rely on the fact that God would provide all we would need.  Notice I don't say all that we want, but all we would need. 

We had barely been home 24 hours with Kenny when God used someone else to step forward and begin the process to help us bring home two more children, another decision that we again didn't take lightly.  Somehow though, that decision became easier, for how much larger of a baseball bat do you need to be hit over the head with to hear God speaking on that one?  And thus Angela and Olesya came home, but you all know that story :-)

Before moving to "yes", Dominick and I sat down for several long talks.  We knew what this would mean for us, we knew that to many, many of our friends it would appear irresponsible and foolhardy.  We heard from many acquaintances that they couldn't understand why in the world we would willingly take this on, and again the same old comments about college and retirement were brought up.  We had no good answer this time either other than "God called us, we said yes."  That answer often drew smirks and rolled eyes, and outright attacks from at least one neighbor.

Because one trusts that God has a path laid out for you that you should take doesn't mean there aren't moments when you weaken.  After all, logic and the world would say that we are being careless with our future.  Somehow though, we have held on to the strong belief that if we say "Yes" when God says "Could you?", then it would all work out somehow.  Naive?  Yeah, maybe so.  But sometimes faith is really just that simple, saying yes and trusting.

That being said, being willing to step off the cliff while holding Jesus' hand doesn't mean that you don't have to put some work into it as well.  After all, Jesus hands you the parachute and you do need to grab hold of it!  Maybe you even have to pack it yourself ahead of time :-)

And as we have learned, sometimes God's way of watching out for you calls you ever deeper into relationship and trust, and even requires some hard work.  Saying "yes" to the girls coming home and having their adoption funded still required an enormous amount of work to help God's vision for our family and the girls' life come to pass.

All of that to say that in a small way, Jesus has grabbed hold of our hands as the 7 of us stand at the edge of the cliff this week and yell "Geronimoooooooo!!!!" and jump, smiles on our faces, Jesus' sandals flying :-)

We had been kicking around ideas lately, trying to think of ways we might be able to put a little something away for retirement.  Was it a new family business we could run from home?  Don't laugh, as a family we are always thinking of ways we could work together and we came up with everything from creating a traveling Nerf War game to set up at carnivals to a Lego kit rental business operated online!!  I know, we need to get a life, right??

Somewhere along the line we started thinking about rental properties, not really thinking we could do anything, as it requires too much money.  However, after casually looking at a local realty magazine we realized there were a few places out there that had sadly been lost by families due to the economy, and our area isn't known for the highest housing prices in the first place so there were a few properties in terrible shape that were going for next to nothing.  Not really expecting anything, we checked out the MLS online, thinking we might be able to find a little single wide mobile home and fix it up, as that is about the price range we could afford.  Terrible shape + single wide mobile home in lower economic area = possibility.  I know it wouldn't be anyone else's idea of a great investment, but you have to start somewhere, and we were really just in the "wouldn't that be a different idea" stage, sort of categorizing it along with the Nerf War Carnival Game...hahaha!

We were eventually drawn to a little blue double wide manufactured home that was a HUD repo and had some issues with it that were simple to rectify but which caused it to repeatedly fall out of escrow.  It is a long story, and I won't drag it out here, but I will share that God definitely led us to this specific home to look at.  We had looked at the MLS online and found a blue double wide that looked very much like this one.  I guessed at what neighborhood it was in (we have a small town, not that hard to do) and went for a drive, finding it...or so I thought...and there was the Realtor sign in front. 

After more investigation, it turns out this was NOT the house we had been looking for, it was in another area and was in a state of total disrepair with rot all along the exterior in multiple places.  The one we thought we were looking at was far more money and a total wreck, and this little one was sitting there all lonely and waiting for a little love to come it's way.  It was much, much less expensive due to falling out of escrow so many times and being on the market a year and a half already.  When we finally gathered the courage to phone the Realtor as we were driving by to look at it yet again, he was from Grand Junction an hour and a half away...but just happened to be in town and could be there in 10 minutes. 

We walked in and were immediately excited...THIS was something we could do!  It was actually a beautiful little house in need of freshening up and a little TLC, but it was not beyond our ability to make the needed repairs, and the price was so low we would be able to have instant equity and a decent little rental as well.  the kids were all wandering around, chattering up a storm, wondering if this might end up being something we would actually do or not.

We left that day quite intrigued, and yet needing to have a family meeting about it and pray about it a little more.  I know many would not involve their kids in such decisions, but we want the kids to gain experience in walking through HOW to make such decisions, to witness how one does so by engaging God to be in partnership in all big decisions, as well as using the brain God gave them and being logical.  Plus, we realized this could be an absolutely amazing school learning project for them, providing an opportunity to see how we all use math in real life situations, and learn some valuable practical hands on skills at the same time.  Also, we just don't make decisions without consulting the kids if it is going to affect them, we have always felt we are a true Team, and if we mean that then we have to practice that.  We all know Mom and Dad have the final say, but we hope that each of the kids feels their opinion is valued, because it is.

After a couple days of tossing the idea around, we decided to make an offer.  We were too late, someone beat us to it.  We were disappointed, because by now we were really into the idea of this and we knew that deals like this come along very seldom.  This was seriously waaayyyyy under market value, by almost half.  Two weeks later we hear back from the Realtor, once again the escrow fell through and the house was back on the market, this time even lower than it was before!  We jumped quickly, and our offer was accepted.

Friday we closed on our little blue manufactured home!!!!

We are taking a huge risk on this, at least for us.  Most would say this is such a terrific deal there is no risk, but for us it is big.  We borrowed against our house to make it happen, as that is the only way we could do something like this.  We weighed it very carefully, and at our ages we know we simply can not save money for retirement fast enough.  We also can not ignore the inevitable, Dominick is close to 50, I am not far behind him, and we don't have the time to let compound interest do it's magic.  We knew that if we wanted to try and do something for retirement, it would involve risk, but we wanted it to be risk that was God directed, not Dominick and Cindy directed.  One feels far safer than the other.  When we looked at the chain of events that led us to the day we made the offer, it felt very much as if God was saying "OK...I promised you I'd take care of you, but you will have to trust me...and you will have to work at it!"  Here we were, looking at the wrong house, having a Realtor from way out of town be 10 minutes away, and finding ourselves inside a little home we could easily work on with the limited home improvement skills we have.  This is literally the house God picked, not us.  Left to our own devices, we were looking for a house riddled with rot and far more expensive! 

It needs work, paint in and out, carpeting to replace nasty emerald green carpet, a couple of holes in the drywall, linoleum replaced, cracks in the ceiling, tie downs under the house needed, and the yard is in dire need of assistance, it is definitely not a palace.  But as our pastor has said more than once, we asked God to do God's part, and we are willing to do our part, so we will dig in, get to work, and ask God to step in and do a little more with a renter when we are done.

Wanna see our little beauty?  Our hopeful retirement help?  Here she is!!:

I think she is cute!  She won't be blue for long, the kids voted for yellow.

The yard is huge, but basically mowed weeds...nothing appealing here.

From the front door, it looks better than it is...paint is bad, stained and filthy walls in bedrooms, carpeting torn in bedrooms and short hallway, tiles falling off counter, and the previous owner decided it would be cool to install a video projector and bury the wiring by digging holes in the ceiling drywall and puttying over it.  Very attractive...NOT!

Kitchen is not bad, needs a new stove, paint, etc.

The larger of two holes in the drywall.  We've never repaired it before, guess we'll learn along with the kids!  This is the laundry room.

The living room, could be kind of pretty!

Kenny telling me "Mommy, we could make this look pretty nice, but this wallpaper is ugly!"

Olesya was missing the day we were there!  Here's most of the Work Crew!
I won't lie, we are nervous about this.  We aren't exactly the "real estate investor" type of folks, you all know that already.  But we told God we would do what was required of us back when we were a family of 4, asking only that somehow we could find a way to not be a burden to our kids when we were older. We knew we would never be able to really save for retirement with this many mouths to feed, but we also knew God could help us help ourselves.  However, we'd have to be willing to say "yes" to more than bringing children into our family.  In other words, we'd have to have a real "working" faith, and I mean not just a faith that works but a faith that might require even more work! 

So, gloves in hand, we are ready to begin a new little episode.  The kids are certainly ready:

We have no idea what God has in this to be the home we retire to ourselves someday?  We would consider ourselves blessed, even though many might turn their noses up.  We know we are up against it, the clock is ticking, and we have to be proactive in order to retire at all and not eat "Fancy Feast" for dinner every night, as I only half jokingly shared with a friend.  We have five children who need higher education beginning in 6 years.  We still need to feed and clothe everyone now.  And we are making it a priority for me to remain home to continue home education for the kids which we also feel strongly called to do. We can't do this on our own.  Heck, the truth is that every month we look at one another, wipe our brow and say "Well, we made it this month!!".  We NEED God to show us the way, we NEED to trust that following God will lead to our needs being met, we NEED to answer "yes" when God says "I have an idea!!"

So we did, and believe it or not, we are actually sleeping at night so far :-)

We'll be posting lots of photos as we work on the project, we want to preserve this for the kids to see one day just how hard they worked and all that they learned.  Since I can't manage to get to scrapbooking like so many mommies do (Yea know our phrase!), the blog is's all I can manage, so everything goes here.  You all will have to suffer through it, but maybe it will be fun for you to follow along as well.  Surely there will be lessons learned that are unintended and yet meaningful, and we'll share that too.  And a little prayer or two would surely be appreciated, your prayers have made a tremendous difference in our lives, even just this past week with Matthew. 

Off to bed, where visions of carpet samples dance through our heads!  Tomorrow is officially Day 1 of Operation: Rental Rehab.  Better get my rest, time for our working faith to be put into action.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Lucy complaining to Charlie Brown that she never gets what she really wants for Christmas....Real Estate. That is totally my plan to fund my retirement. When the stock market tanked and everyone was crying that their retirement portfolios were gone, I could look at my rental house and know that I still had a renter paying rent every month.

Anonymous said...

How exciting! With the working crew in Team LaJoy, you will have the cute house in tip-top shape.
We did things like that when we were young.
Fran S.

Anonymous said...

Leap of faith--I think of Team LaJoy linking hands,and just like Indiana Jones taking the first step out into the abyss and finding that the path to safety is there. Except Indiana didn't have God at his back. LaJoys have God in and around and through.

By the way, I strip wallpaper and paint.

Call me,

P.S. You all need badges of courage.

Anonymous said...

Mr Steve has his paintbrushes all cleaned and ready! Thanks for taking us all along on this new path. "Working faith", what a concept!

It's fun to see the "before" pictures. Love the study books! I need to teach Angela about Excel... Would work great for her chart!

Love you ALL and what you're teaching us!

Mr Steve and Ms Jane

The Gobble's (Lanetta) said...

We'll (Team Gobble) be praying for you guys...
This post (as most of yours do) made me smile!
Proud of you my sister... SO SO SO proud of you! :)
Big hugs, smiles and know that I'm praying for you!

The Gobble's (Lanetta) said...

oh... and I REALLY wish we lived closer... cause you'd have some help!

Trisha said...

I love a good project!! Looking forward to reading and seeing all the updates and fixes. Like adoption, there are a million blogs about home can learn anything on the internet.

Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,
As someone who said yes to adoption at the expense of college for sibs and was willing to risk retirement (long God story on that one!), I can say that higher education can be had w/o loans for those willing to stay w/parents and work & go slow, as 2 of our sons have done. One graduated w/no debt! CLEP and community college can help.
On the yellow, do some research (let the kids help) to see if the buyer will later hate them if paint peels revealing the blue underneath. Otherwise, might be kinder to stick with a close to the same shade of blue. It really isn't ugly! Just a thought. LOVED the post and can't wait to watch the rehab progress. Adoption, home school & home decor, my favorite trio!
Congrats! Sherry

r. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Do any of your kids receive benefits related to your family's income level? In some states, assets in the form of rental property are treated differently than assets in the form of property your family lives in (i.e., "homestead" property). If you live in one of those states and you do receive income-based benefits, you might want to look into whether owning the mobile home will affect your ability to qualify for income-based services. (Note: I'm NOT a lawyer and I DON'T know Colorado law, so don't make any decisions based on what I'm writing. I'm just saying it might be something to look into.) In many programs, it's the recipient's responsibility to notify the program if their income and asset levels change, so mostly it's a heads-up so you can look into what the rules are and be on the right side of the law in your state (if necessary). If it does turn out that your eligibility is affected, this might not be the end of the world. It might be possible to form a business entity for your rental properties and deal with things this way. (Again, I'm not a lawyer. You'd want to talk to one if these things sound like they might affect you. Maybe a nice lawyer at your church?) But it's just something to have in mind if you do receive income-related benefits or services.

Anonymous said...

Nice going, Cindy!
As someone who currently rents a single-wide, I can attest that a home such as the one you've just acquired (a DOUBLE-wide, even!)can be a life-saver to others. Your way of living through God's guidance is awe-inspiring! You and your family certainly have my prayers!
Kaye Hult

Hilary Marquis said...

I think this is a great idea! Talk about putting your learning into real life situations :) When you're ready to do that drywall give Tim a call...that's how he put himself through college, and he's GOOD at it!

Heather said...

Perfect project for the family to all be a part of. Great idea. Think all that they will learn along the way!