When I was little I dreamed of being a Disney Princess – or maybe Vanna White, whichever came first. I grew up in a small West Texastown and attended Texas Tech University where I graduated with a degree in engineering. Right before graduation I was engaged to a fellow engineering student. We married; then reality set in. I was divorced a few years later. I met and later married another man. We chose to adopt kids – six, age 5-14, from foster care. Soon after we began the adoption process, I lost my mom suddenly due to illness. This was a terrible shock. It took me several years before I even began to recover. We grew as a family. I wrote a parenting book, under the pen name of Stacey Addison. I spoke at conferences. I taught school. I volunteered at church. I thought we had the perfect family. Then a few short years later, I walked in to find my husband, a local policeman, molesting our daughter. Suddenly I became a single mom, of six kids. As a mom, I’ve encountered everything from teenager’s involvement in drugs, to running away, to sexually acting out. I’ve lived through survival mode and graduated to survivor mode. I’ve failed. I’ve cried. I’ve screamed. And I’ve triumphed. And through it all, I can say, God is faithful. He is bigger than me. He is bigger than my problems. And, I can promise you, He is bigger than yours as well. I have learned so much in this process. I’ve learned how to handle the logistics of a large family. I’ve learned how to help kids work through trauma and to embrace victory. I’ve seen, first hand, the resiliency of kids who simply refuse to give up. I’ve seen myself go from a wide-eyed, naïve child, out to change the world, to a woman, slightly tarnished by life but glowing with a joy only God can provide. And most of all, I’ve learned to trust in God, to align my life to His will and to trust Him for the outcome. Below is a detailed description of just how much God has blessed me, sustained me and walked me through the fire.
I’m not certain why God answers my prayers. I only know that He does. It’s certainly not anything that I deserve or that I’ve earned. But despite all of the hardships in our lives, I consider myself to be truly, irrevocably blessed. For in these past ten years, I have seen the hand of God carry us through. The best way that I can describe what happened the night I walked in on my ex-husband molesting our teenage daughter the night my marriage ended and my life changed forever, was that some force pulled the floor upon which we were standing out from under us and we fell…straight into the hand of Almighty God.
God worked in many, many ways but the one easiest to talk about and to define was our finances. I list the details because numbers don't lie. They are black and white. They are not an opinion or an exaggeration. These numbers helped me to realize just how big and truly impossible my answered prayers were. All that I list below is an improbability of which the magnitude might be compared to the fog at Normandy. It’s just too great a coincidence to be ignored. So, I will let the numbers tell the story.
My ex-husband had accumulated a significant amount of debt prior to our marriage and had very poor credit. After we married I found this out. So upon my suggestion, we contacted creditors, made deals for the balances, and eventually placed all remaining debt under a consolidation loan in both of our names. After all, I had the good credit and income that made the loan possible in the first place. When we divorced, I willingly took on all of this debt because I knew he wouldn’t pay – regardless of what a divorce court ordered him to do. I knew that his lapse in payment would mar my credit score and I would eventually be forced to pay everything anyway or file bankruptcy.
The Debts that I took on from our marriage included the following:
- The consolidation loan I spoke of earlier, which was $63,000 when we signed for it on 12/30/2010. The payments were $1500/month.
- Certified Green Building Systems, which was a spray foam trailer my ex-husband had purchased with the intent of starting a business. The business never took so the trailer / equipment had been for sale for approximately two years prior to the divorce with no success. At the time of our sudden separation, $51,588 was owed to the bank. That monthly payment was $1,280.
- We also owned a second house we had been trying to sell for quite some time. (When we moved we made the mistake of purchasing a new home before our old home sold - then it never did.) The mortgage was $1100 / month.
So there you have it: me, six kids ages 7-17, and a hole so deep light could scarcely penetrate – but God did.
In November 2011, the spray foam trailer sold. It even rented a few months prior for an amount adequate to cover the note.
A few months later land we owned, that had also been sale for years prior to the divorce, sold.
The rent house did not immediately sell, but was soon rented by a gentleman who faithfully paid on-time for years. He even offered to increase his own rent by $100/a month when he saw how close his rent was to the actual mortgage of the home. When he moved out approximately 5 years later the house sold within about a month and I made $50,100 on the sale.
When you add up the debt and the monthly payments, then compare that to my income, it was impossible. But time and again I literally saw the hand of God provide. When I didn’t have money, twice I was sent a $700 check for a refund of some custom windows we had ordered prior to our separation and which were obviously no longer a priority. Not only did the company gladly refund money for custom windows but told me to keep the second $700 check even after I called them and told them I thought there might be a mistake. Another month I received a refund for insurance of several hundred dollars. I watched as God turned five loaves and two fish into enough to feed 5,000 men. The next entry describes that provision in great detail. If you read nothing else, read this next part. God really does specialize in the AMAZING.
One of my good friends is a woman in her fifties who is raising two very young children. She is active and energetic. One day as we were visiting, she relayed to me her “secret” - eating and juicing fresh fruits and vegetables. I, too, wanted in on these supernatural powers so I considered the possibility of taking on this habit. I had but one dilemma: we ate canned food, frequently purchased at a salvage store, and much less expensive than anything fresh. But as I prayed I felt God telling me, “Just go to the store and I will provide.”
So I went to the store. As I shopped I noticed a man sorting fresh fruits and vegetables. His name was Abraham. I could tell one box, although it looked perfectly fine, was going to be thrown out. So, I asked him if I could have it. He said you can, but you have to call it “pig food.” This suited me fine and I happily took my pig food home with me. Week after week I went to the supermarket for their pig food. And week after week, I came home with the most beautiful assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables—fruit trays, avocados, peppers, watermelon—more than you can imagine and enough that it not only fed my family but we shared with our entire block and a couple of food pantries as well. Eventually, I became tired of the extra time and energy that it took to support this “pig food” habit of mine and I began complaining—if not out loud at least in my spirit. Shortly after, it ceased. Months went by. And I became very tired of the staple apples, oranges and bananas. I longed for the luxury I had come to expect. So, I prayed. It was a rather simple prayer. Something like:
Please bring back the pig food. I promise I won’t complain. And if you don’t mind could you send me some baby carrots. (At the time I prayed this prayer, I was chopping up carrots. The whole carrots are so much less expensive than the baby ones but my youngest only snacks on them when they are in bite sized pieces.)
Approximately two weeks passed. I told no one of the prayer. Then a friend of mine came to me and said, “I found a store that will do pig food!” I knew God had answered my prayer. And sure enough when we picked up the first supply, there was a box measuring approximately 18’’x 24” filled with nothing but baby carrots.
Coincidence you claim? Well let’s not stop there. My phone broke. Well, actually if you want to be technical it fell off of my moving vehicle and was run over. But who’s keeping track. I prayed for a new phone. About a week later—without me asking or complaining—someone gave me a new phone. And I might add a much nicer one than I had to start with.
A few years after the divorce, I wanted to sell the “fixer-upper” that my ex-husband and I had purchased in 2009. I was tired of the memories and tired of the “fixer-uppering” it took to maintain this humble abode I called home. I prayed about selling the house. I prayed about how much to list it for. And it sold in less than a month for $20,000 more than I we had paid for it. Oh, and by the way, I was completely honest with the poor souls who, for some reason, wanted to take on my mortgage. I literally walked them through and told them everything that was wrong with both the house and the neighborhood.
One Thursday evening we were eating hamburgers on large sesame seed buns at my dad's house. Typically, I only purchase the smaller, less expensive, non-seed version. Enjoying my hamburger I whispered a silent prayer, “God, if you don’t mind could you send us some of those large hamburger buns with the sesame seeds.” The following Saturday morning, while sitting at a park with a friend of mine and our families, a man randomly jumped out of his car and began giving out packages of large sesame seed hamburger buns. As he handed us a package, my friend turned to me and asked, “Did you pray for hamburger buns?” Now, the man explained to everyone that his girlfriend worked at a fast food restaurant where they weren’t allowed to use the buns one day after they were out of date. So, he would take what was to be thrown away and give it away instead. You believe what you want. But, I had never in all my years been sitting at a park had man jump out of his car to hand me a giant package of sesame seed buns (sealed and everything). I say a prayer and two days later it happens. You can’t tell me that’s not divine intervention.
There was one REALLY BIG way that God provided. When my ex-husband and I adopted in 2009, a little thing existed called an adoption tax credit. However, it was not a refundable tax credit. That simply means that you could use the credit against any tax liability you might owe the IRS but you couldn’t actually receive any money. So if you had no tax liability, there was no advantage to the tax credit. Most families with six children do not have any taxable income, so the credit goes unused. In 2010, this law was changed. It was altered to be a refundable tax credit. This meant that any remaining credit would be given to you in the form of a tax refund. With six adopted kids, that translated into a check ofapproximately $100,000.
About halfway through the divorce and halfway through 2011, I discovered that I should qualify for this refundable credit—a credit that wasn’t claimed in 2009 and could be carried over to 2010. Call me selfish, but I didn’t want my ex-husband to get one cent of the credit. So I said nothing of it and instead placed a statement in the divorce decree stating that we would each be responsible for our own 2010 taxes—liabilities and credits. We filed an extension for 2010 and waited until the divorce was finalized in December of 2011 before filing. At that time, I filed as head of household. Turned out there were two problems with that. One, unknown to me at the time, I couldn’t legally file as head of household. Because regardless of the divorce in 2011, we were married all of 2010. The second problem was a stipulation in the tax law that stated anyone who is (was) married and filing for an adoption credit must file as married filing jointly. This was due to certain income requirements you must fall below (we were easily below the income requirements married or single). So there you have it. Two problems.
What did the IRS do? Well, they not only denied the credits but placed a $20,000 civil penalty on me as well. For a couple of years, my accountant fought this decision. She called the IRS. She filed for tax court. You name it. Then one day, I decided I would believe God would work in my favor—that He would cause the penalty to be dropped and that I would be given the tax credit. The very next day, the attorney, working for the IRS, who I had been talking to in regards to our upcoming tax court proceedings, told me that she was going to drop the penalty. A few weeks later, I happened to make a phone call to a woman who just happened to be the attorney in the National IRS office specializing in adoption credits. (I had no idea who she was when I made the phone call. It was simply a name and number I saw on the bottom of a form.) She took on my cause and not only was I given the adoption credits but the IRS issued official legal advice in reference to adoption credits. This legal advice overturned a recent tax court case (very similar to my own) that had been granted in favor of the IRS. In the words of the IRS attorney handling my case, “This really doesn’t happen.”
I signed the court documents in March of 2014 stating that the IRS was conceding the case and that I would be awarded $103,000 in addition to the $8,000 I had already paid toward the penalty.
I knew I must pay off all debt with the exception of my house note. I did not know what to do with the remainder of the money. So once again, I prayed and sought God's guidance. I thought, perhaps, I should donate a portion of the money to charity then place the remainder in a retirement account. This seemed wise. But, for some reason, I kept visualizing the parable of the talents found in the Bible. You remember the one? (Matthew 25: 14-30) One man is given 5 talents, which he doubles. Another man is given 2 talents, which he also doubles. And a third man is given one talent which he buries in the ground—for fear of losing it. When the master returns, he is pleased with the first two men but angry with the third. I never understood this. After all, the third man didn't hide or steal from the master. He was simply afraid of losing what he had been given, so he buried it instead. I didn't really understand it—until now.
Please keep in mind, this isn't financial advice. Retirement accounts are wise and it's not sinful to save money. The problem is that's not the reason God gave me THIS money. He wanted me to DO something with the money – not to let my fear of losing it cause me to bury it away somewhere. So, I prayed. I sought advice. One thought lay heavy on my mind. I have always wanted to write and speak full time. I have always wanted to impress upon people the miraculous goodness of God—even in the most difficult of times. I prayed again, “God if you want me to speak and write full time. I really need you to close some doors. I have a good job. I don't know if it's the right thing to do to quit that job. I don't want to lose my job, but if you want me to do this, please have them surplus me. (That meant you still had a job with the same school district but would be transferred to a different school.)” About two weeks later, the principal of my school told me I had been surplussed. I was terrified and excited at the same time. Hurt, but knew it was an answer to my prayer. I resigned on April 21, 2014. Trusting God for the next steps.
To the best of my understanding, all of this points me to a scripture found in Mark 11: 22-25: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown in to the sea,” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Now this verse says two things to me. Believe and don’t have unresolved sin in your life. By unresolved sin I think it means perpetual sin such unforgiveness or anything thing else that the Bible speaks against, and yet you allow it to penetrate your life—sexual sin, lying, gossip, crude language. This doesn’t mean that you live a perfect life and never sin. We all have times when we miss the mark entirely. I believe that it is referring to a sin you know is wrong. But, instead of turning it over to God and asking Him to help you rid your life of it, you rationalize your own behavior and blame others instead of taking responsibility. By believe, I think this is referring to a rational decision that you make—a commitment to trust in God and in His faithfulness. I am in no way saying that if you have an unanswered prayer, you are living in sin or lack faith. I understand that God is sovereign and His ways are above my ways and His thoughts are above my thoughts. I have resolved to place my trust in Him no matter what the cost, no matter what the pain, the loss or how desperate the confusion. You see, I believe God is a “big picture” God and sometimes we are “small picture” people. There are times when life doesn’t turn out like we want because there is a bigger picture, which we won’t see this side of heaven, and a picture that we couldn’t begin to understand. I can’t help but think of Job when he questions God. And God, in turn, asked Job where he was when He created the heavens and a whole host of other things that Job knew nothing about. I will trust God and I will believe.