Here are my very proud children standing in front of our family van:
I don’t know if they have ever cheered so loud as they did when we brought the van home this morning.
And you can bet those little rugrats appreciate the van a lot more after being stuck going in my car in shifts with no heat for a whole week.
So here’s the moral of the story: when you have to choose between paying for your daughter’s life to be saved or being late on your house and van payments, choosing your daughter is the right choice.
But find a nice bridge, because you won’t get your house back, no matter what they tell you.
And thank the Lord (seriously) when family helps save your van.
Except when you save your van, make sure you update the address to your new house.
Because if they charge a fee for it being late, and you don’t see it because you moved, and so you keep sending payments like normal but are $5 short three months in a row (in fees, not principal), then all the money you keep sending them goes into a savings account instead of on your balance.
And so then, on paper, it looks like you didn’t pay for your van, even though you thought you did.
And they won’t apply all that money in savings until the whole back amount is paid in cash again, without using the money you already sent.
So you have to pay double for three whole months, plus fees, all because of $15 missing.
But if you don’t know it because your mail isn’t coming, then they let you know by taking your van away.
Do you know who was amazing? The guy who came to take away our van. He was very soft and kind and encouraged us instead of shaming us in a shocking and horrifying moment.
And that’s how we learned more in our year long lesson of how expensive it is to be poor.
Because being $15 short cost us almost $1700.
It was insane.
So we spent the week scrambling. We scrambled for rides, and we scrambled for money. But in the end, once we showed up with three months worth of van payments, then all the money we had sent for van payments was there to use for the fees.
And then we scrambled to make sure all of our mail really was being forwarded.
And then we scrambled to make sure and double check and triple check everything was paid and caught up.
Because despite all the drama, we really have fought hard. We’ve gotten the children what they needed, the same as we would have done had they been born to us. Except we also promised to take care of them.
So, we have some new rules:
First, when we move, we make sure all the mail is forwarded, not just the post office card you fill out.
Two, no more preschoolers checking the mailbox (which maybe I have said a thousand times).
Three, no more moving.
Four, pay your stinking bills. I mean, like, ahead of time. So this doesn’t happen even with the level of chaos in our home.
We did. Today everything (except our purgatory houses that they won’t let us pay and need to sell but aren’t selling) is paid. The house where we live is paid. Both vehicles are paid. Insurance is paid. Utilities are paid. Everything is paid, and most things one month ahead. Everything will be a month ahead by next week.
We will never have credit again, I assume, but our actual crawling out of this medical crisis cancer sick baby hole is happening.
And I am less panicked since finding our lovely home that fits us so well, which is way better than a bridge, so I hope they let us stay for ages.
We even have – in Kyrie’s own fund – and with my job doing Home Studies, the money to get to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and back, if we can do it in overnight trips, and if we pack our food. We did that all by ourselves, with book sales and home studies. The tshirts we are selling are to cheer her up and help us have what she needs on the way, which will use extra supplies not covered. That’s so good for us! We’ve come a long way!
So things may have been hard and awful, but we are making progress! We are better off than we were a year ago! For the first time in three years, it feels like our heads are above water. We are still in the water because our houses are a disaster and there is nothing we can do if they don’t sell, so that’s the drowning still. But our faces are above water, and we can breathe, and their is sunshine bringing us hope.
And Kyrie is worth it.
And these children are worth it.
And when I wrote this week about needing some kind of foundation or organization that helps people who want to support fostering but not foster themselves, and how they could support families who could foster? I was half joking because there is nothing that formal. And because it won’t happen with state cuts right now.
But you know who does make it happen. Community. You, all of you. People who bought our books. People who bought our tshirts. People who came to dinner theater nights. People who dropped off eggs or blankets or sacks of groceries or plates of cookies or just the right bag of stickers. It was not formally organized, but it was community, and we are grateful.
I mean community in an Acts chapter two kind of way.
And because of those tiny miracles, our tiny miracle who is now almost a very grown up three year old is doing so well.
I mean, considering, right?
And if we can keep her healthy and strong for one more month, we will have her at her healthiest and strongest ever going into the next round of surgeries.
And if she does well, it will buy us another summer. Maybe autumn. Maybe a miracle winter. Or not.
But she will be as ready as possible.
And we will not be in as much crisis as before, even though it’s still a hardship, of course. There is not easy way to do those Cincinnati trips, not financially or emotionally or even just energy wise.
But we are starting out with our bills paid.
And my home study job and the book sales will cover what I lose by not working while we are there – that’s provision in a new way for the first time ever.
And we have hotel points and gas money saved.
Because we may still be drowning, but our heads are finally above water.
We may still be in the deep end, but we are past the rapids.
We may have a long way yet to float without sinking, but we still have a little dog paddle left in us.
And just a little hope is enough to have a whole lot of courage.
We may be a hot mess on paper, with too many children who have too many special needs.
But we have sufficient for our needs, and we will be okay.
And when Kyrie crawls into bed after church to (not) take a nap, and she wants to pray about a better blanket because ours is too small and too old and too scratchy, then we aren’t surprised when the doorbell rings and we open our front door to find a new comforter set.
And when Nathan and I pray in our couple’s night for more vegetables, then we can only smile when the chaplain’s office sends me home with trays of sandwiches and vegetables.
And when I drive home from work to find our van still in the driveway, I might cry a little bit.
Not because we need fancy cars, but because there are a lot of us, and because Cincinnati is a long way away.
And then when I pray my prayers of gratitude, I pray for those who have less. Not just less, like no house at all much less a fancy van, but less like without family or friends or church support, less like without community.
There is no way we could repay our friends and family for the generosity and help and even so many simple kindnesses.
Except for finding ways to be kind to others myself, even if it isn’t just financial generosity.
I don’t write about this because I’m gifted at talking about all the impolite topic kinds of things like money, but because I have learned so much about not having money. And how businesses make money off of poor people, and punish them in ways they can’t recover. I’m not talking about users who abuse resources and the system and all that. I’m talking about how you are one tornado, or house fire, or sick baby girl away from losing everything you thought kept you comfortable.
Anyway, because of all this – getting the van back and making sure all our bills were not just caught up, but paid ahead – I have been thinking about it a lot.
When we were drowning, trying to hold her up, our loved ones wrapped around us like life jackets.
That’s really what kept Kyrie alive, people doing that for us, whether it was tiny gifts or wholehearted prayers.
Now I want to see, pray to see, how I can do that for others.
It might be putting aside the mail to play with preschoolers, even though sorting mail is super important, as our family now understands.
Or maybe it’s putting down your phone long enough to actually connect with your spouse.
Maybe it’s closing the eyes of a man who has passed away when there is no one else around to notice it needs doing, or maybe it is carrying a baby down to the morgue when no one else can bear to do it.
Maybe it’s making up a goofy jingle on the elevator to make the housekeeper smile, or maybe it’s just calling her by name.
Maybe it’s talking about personal things, like money or miscarriages or your punk nine year old running through the halls during scouts. Maybe we need to talk about these things so that we are less alone, so that we can stop repeating our mistakes, so that we can help each other progress – even when progress only comes through difficult experiences.
Or maybe the jokes on you, because who really wants to be stuck in the van with six little ones for a whole thousand miles to Cincinnati?
Except you would tolerate it better if you knew what it was not to have a van.
Or those children.
It’s bitter and sweet, you guys.
It’s learning to tell the difference between them.
And appreciate both.
And just keep swimming.