Thursday, June 30, 2011

Counting the Cost

Will Kingdom Hoops get the funding it needs to stay afloat for another year?

Will we be able to make our house payment next month?

How will we afford all the travel expenses for the string of live period tournaments coming up in July?

When will be able to catch up on past due gym rent?

Will the IRS ever send us our adoption tax refund or will they keep on delaying it?

These are just a few of the financial realities our family has been facing over the past few months. I am not sharing these things so that you feel sorry for us. I am sharing because I don’t ever want to be anything less than completely transparent on this blog.

Here’s the thing. Today our family is taking off for a tournament in Orlando, Florida. If I didn’t write this post you would never know what a stretch this is going to be for us financially. I think people sometimes equate travel with glamorous lifestyles. For us, traveling together to Jake’s tournaments on the weekends is absolutely vital to the well-being of our family. Although we need to be cutting expenses, this is just not a category that we are willing to do that. Orlando will be a treat for our family….one that we have all been looking forward to for months. But our weekend tournament trips do not come without a price.

My husband works 16 hour days almost every day. He doesn’t get weekends off obviously because that is when the tournaments are. We don’t all get to sit around the table and have family dinners. We don’t get to go to church together. We don’t get to go to together to weddings, or going away parties, or birthday parties, or evening time get togethers with our friends. There’s tournaments, practices, and meetings to work around if an event comes up that I need to get on the calendar. Our quality time together each day usually starts at about 10pm at night, in bed while he sends back emails to parents who are upset about one thing or another. Or returns phone calls. Or sets up meetings for the next day. Or works on logistics of booking lodging for an upcoming tournament trip, figuring out what coach is driving which van, and compiling rooming lists for the kids who’s parents aren’t going. Or he’s organizing his speech that he will share in front of CEO’s the next day in the hopes that they will catch the vision and give donations. Not to mention the time he tries to squeeze in working on Ghana items. Then there’s the time he spends doing individual training sessions to help pay for extras like trips to Nike Outlet stores for the kids or Sea World passes for our Orlando trip.

At the beginning of our marriage, I had huge and I mean HUGE problems with the hours Jake’s job demanded. My idealistic expectations of what I envisioned our life would be were quickly crushed by the realities of his job. I was discontent with our lifestyle. And I let him know it. Our first 6 months of marriage were AWFUL. I did not support Jake and I did not respect him. I never went to the weekend tournaments because I wanted him to know that I didn’t like his job. I thought if I could ignore the whole thing that it would just go away. I pity the people who had to endure me during that part of my life. I know it wasn’t pretty.

But over the years something happened. Not only did God teach me a thing or two about being a wife, but He also grew me spiritually. I started going to the tournaments, not because I wanted to, but because I knew that Jake wanted me to be there alongside of him. And God showed me that Jake’s job could provide me with opportunities to minister to others. I got to have spiritual conversations with parents in the stands. I got to tell our reasons behind why we were adopting. I got to read letters and emails written to Jake by young kids or by parents who told stories of how Jake had impacted their child’s life. I got to watch the way my husband’s face would light up in the midst of competition, just the way it used to when he played in college. I got to listen to his advice for how to execute skills on the court, and how to overcome adversity off the court. I saw him making a difference, and he pulled me in and my heart softened towards his work. Sometime later Sam came to live with us. And for the first time I realized the weight and impact of the ministry we had in front of us…..just through the simple platform of basketball. This wasn’t just about my husband having a good set of coaching skills, or having a background in psychology to give some thoughtful advice, or even about being a good role model. It was so much more. Jake’s job gave us access to directly affect LIVES. Outside of becoming a mom, I had never had the opportunity to do that before. Earlier this year I started teaching a bible study at the gym. God took me out of my comfort zone, and put me up in front of some kids starving for truth. And I was addicted. Their culture and environments wage war against God. But for 30 minutes on Monday evenings I could tell them about Jesus, feed them truth, and pray that it would resonate in their souls.

So what does all this have to do with our finances? Well, for anyone in ministry work, you know that you never quite know how you are going to get your paycheck. You can’t see ahead of time how God is going to provide for you….emotionally to keep on going, or tangibly to be able to sustain your work. But yet your ministry sits there in front of you. And God says ‘Be my hands and feet.’ So you trust him with your life, and each day you pray that He will provide. Just to get you through one more day. For us this shows up in many different ways. We’ll be at a tournament and a player will come up and ask if we can buy him a hotdog at the concession stand because his parents didn’t send any money with him. What would you do? Look him in the eye and say, “Sorry, it’s not in the budget.” Absolutely not! You’re going to buy him the hot dog and pray that God replenishes you for his hot dog and the 10 other ones that you buy the next day for the other kids who have no money. Or I’ll get a text message from Jake that 3 junior high boys are coming home from practice with him to stay at our place for the weekend. Should I tell them, “Sorry, it’s only in the budget for me to make a 9x13 pan of lasagna which will feed me, Jake, Yaw, Ezekiel and our kids. You guys will just have to eat crackers for dinner.” Ummmm….no. I’ll make an extra pan of lasagna, fill up their tummies, and get the opportunity to dig into their lives for 2 days while they stay at my house. We get to sit in our living room and open up the scriptures and we get to tell them how Jesus has changed our lives, and we pray that He will change theirs too. I get to take them to church with me on Sunday and watch as they worship and sing to a God they barely know, but who is chasing after them with His truths.

The problem becomes that the hot dogs and the extra pans of lasagna add up. On average this summer I've spent an extra $150 per week on groceries because of the amount of extra kids staying in our house. When you are struggling to make your house payment each month, that’s a lot of money. But this I know: we are choosing to stay in this ministry. Jake and I both know that in as little as 5 minutes he could make a few phone calls, get a college coaching job, and start working his way up. In 5 years I could guarantee that he would be at the top of his game, getting a six-figure salary, and we would have no financial worries. I could adopt as many kids as I want and never have to blink an eye on the finances. Easily it could be done. And I am not saying this to be arrogant. Rather I know the skill set, mind, abilities, competiveness, and work ethic that God has given my husband. But God has not led us there yet, and He maybe never will. And so, this is where we stay. We don’t ever know how God will provide. But He does. In the last month alone we received 3 separate grocery gift cards….$300 each….sent to us in the mail by friends who know the pressure we are in financially. Through the generosity of others, God blessed us. It’s not easy to have to rely on God in this way. In fact, it is one of the most humbling things to accept money from others. But this is how the Kingdom of God works. This is how ministry works.

Sometimes, oftentimes, I am weary of this ministry. But God provides there too. He’ll send a friend by my house, a friend who is there to listen and to encourage me to keep on doing God’s work. “It’s supposed to be hard,” she says. “Jesus told us that following Him could cost us everything. This is a great place to be… full dependency on God….your faith is growing so much.” She’s right. But there’s bills to pay. Sacrifices to be make. And responsibilities, and expectations. And doubters and opinions and rumors and outsiders judging our life who don’t understand our priorities, our reasons, our faith. While people around us are acquiring cushiony savings accounts we watch as God asks us to take ours and spend it on an adoption. While others can take parts of their paychecks and start saving up in a retirement fund, we watch as our paycheck is sucked dry each month and then some by the extra expenses of extra people in our home. We didn’t anticipate this. There was no way for us to plan ahead of time that this was going to happen. The world calls us fools! No savings! No retirement! Janel, you’re setting yourself up to be too dependent on Jake. Get a job! Jake, quit being so generous! Jake you’re not putting your family first! Jake and Janel, you’re going to sink under all this pressure. But we smile because we know it doesn’t make sense. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Lose your life for His sake, and you WILL find the true purpose of livng. Foolish? Not to us. For what good will it be for a man if he gains the WHOLE WORLD, yet forfeits his soul?

Rest with me awhile. You have journeyed up a steep, rugged path in recent days. The way ahead is shrouded in uncertainty. Look neither behind you nor before you. Instead, focus your attention on Me, your constant Companion. Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey. I designed time to be a protection for you. You couldn’t bear to see all your life at once. Though I am unlimited by time, it is in the present moment that I meet you. Refresh yourself in My company, breathing deep draughts of My Presence. The highest level of trust is to enjoy Me moment by moment. I am with you, watching over you wherever you go. ~Jesus Calling~

1 comment:

Jenni said...

This post was exactly what I needed to read this morning. From the outside, it seems as our family is crazy to adopt precious children from Ghana as our friends are busy growing their retirement funds and college accounts. We dont drive a brand new car ( or two) so how can we adopt?But if we all waited to act on Gods calling when it was the perfect time for us, can you imagine how little we would get done for His kingdom? Thank you for your honesty, it is so refreshing:)