Friday, February 17, 2012

Windows of Heaven Opened

I have contemplated this particular post for several days. I have thought about it in the middle of the night. I have thought about how to share this with my family and my friends. And I have thought about how ungrateful it would be of me to keep this to myself after I have shared all of our trials and tribulations with you.

In the end I have decided to share it in the same straightforward and detailed manner I have shared the rest of my experiences over the last several months. And if you have been reading from the beginning you will remember some of our hurdles and obstacles over this last year. The same things that drove me to start this blog in the first place! Of all the years we have been married there are two that were unquestionably the most difficult. Our internship year (PGY1), and this year - our last year of residency (PGY6).

At the end of every year as we prepare our taxes I look at our statements. I look at our budget. I look at our charitable donations and wonder why are we sharing what little we have with others when it is obvious that we have legitimate needs. The majority of the time I give with a willing heart, grateful that I have something to give. Then I see the totals for the year my mind immediately calculates what we could have done if we would have never given it.

There is a scripture in the Old Testament that I have been familiar with for years but have never felt so personally.... until now.

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it". - Malachi 3:10

I do believe in giving. I believe in God. I believe that we are blessed when we give. There are defining moments that mark a persons life and today I can think of three of them: the day I married my husband, the day I became a mother, and the day that the windows of heaven were opened and poured out blessings upon my little family. I will remember this year for the rest of my life.

The FIRST Miracle
It was about this time last year that my husband was in the middle of pursuing a fellowship. That wasn't in the plan when we started, and the thought of adding one more year to the six we already were doing caused me great stress. Adding another year was the equivalent of forfeiting a few hundred thousand dollars in exchange for another year of sacrifice. That's a big deal. His student loan payments were just starting and represented a car payment at precisely the same time we needed to save money for a baby and house expenses and maybe even a car. My DrH knew what he was asking of me, and I knew that I didn't have a choice. The sub-specialty he wanted to pursue required a fellowship, and no amount of money would be worth asking my husband to settle for something less. 

DrH had decided on three very competitive programs. Secretly, I prayed that he wouldn't get any interviews and we could start looking for a job. He could say he tried but it wasn't meant to be. By the middle of April he had his first interview with his first choice program. Then my prayers changed that if he should get a fellowship that it would at least be in my first choice state. A month later we had received an acceptance letter from his first choice program and my first choice state. But that isn't the only miracle. The program usually has 50+ applicants for only 4 spots. This year the applicant pool dropped significantly and they took on 5 fellows instead of 4.  It's impossible to know if he was the 5th accepted, but it is very likely.

The SECOND Miracle
This summer we also had our fourth child. Having children during our residency has been a very expensive adventure. Not so much in the caring and feeding of them that happens gradually, but of the medical bills that accompany them at birth. Our first child was born before residency. The two children we had during residency had out of pocket expenses of at least $2,500 each (c-sections). This baby would now be born under a new insurance policy that the hospital had adopted which had a deductible of $3,200 and then a 10% payment of services received. I was anticipating a bill of about $4-5K. We had saved about $2,000 and thought we would have enough by the time the bills started coming in. 

Well, the bills came and we started paying, praying that somehow we would have enough. When we received the bill for the OB/GYN's services my jaw dropped. It was for $2,682.59, and that was just for her, not the operating room, the anesthesiologist, pediatrician services, or the hospital stay. I was beyond depressed with our current financial situation. In trying to figure out how would we pay our bills our options were quickly running out. We thought about asking our parents (which we have never done - we were that desperate) but my DrH's parents had just purchased a home that their daughter would be renting from them. In doing so they cashed out a big portion of their retirement accounts for a huge down payment and we frequently heard how they were scrimping to put it together in time for closing.  My father had just retired and they were adjusting to living on a reduced income. Neither of our parents are well-off enough to have money to throw around (although I would hope they would know that we would be good for it soon enough).

Our next option was to start begging. At least that is what it felt like to me, so I made my husband do it. We decided to approach our OB/GYN about reducing our portion of the bill. We had delivered all three of our "residency" children with her and had previously paid the full portion of her bills. My husband had rotated with her during his internship year. We felt like we knew her well enough and that she knew us well enough to ask. I still feel embarrassed about it, that's why DrH had to do it. She was kind enough to accept $682.59 as our payment in full and waived $2,000 for us. When it was all said and done we were able to pay the remainder of our medical expenses with what we had saved.

The THIRD Miracle
After the baby, our savings account had now been wiped out and we still needed to fix a few things on our house, namely replacing a cracked and sinking driveway, before it would be ready to sell and we were running out of time. We have a deadline of July 1st for moving and need to have it ready to sell before spring. Winter was on it's way and for concrete to cure properly it needs to go down before the snow. We had a contractor come out and give us an estimate the end of September of $3,500. It had to be done, but we didn't have the money - again.

My husband is part of the Army Reserves Medical Corp. Part of his compensation is a monthly stipend, and another is in the form of compensation for hours served in qualifying activities, not necessarily military related. Each month from March - September he had submitted invoices that hadn't been processed. The payments were finally processed and received in the middle of October for the sum of $3,500. We had the concrete poured two weeks later.

The FOURTH Miracle
The first week in December we meet with a realtor to discuss selling our home. That is when she told us that we had over-improved our home (I still disagree). Perhaps it was a mistake to buy a/this home in the first place. At the time it felt like the right thing to do, and maybe it was, but it has been an expensive adventure. I told the realtor about everything we had done to the house (roof, driveway, appliances, hot water heater, a/c unit, garage door, soffits, seamless gutters, etc). The major things totaled $17,000. At the time we spent the money on the house all indications suggested that we would see a large portion of that returned in the sale price. Now we were being told that those improvements wouldn't change the price of our home, but may help it sell faster.

Prior to this meeting I had worked my own numbers to determine at what price we would have to sell at in order to not write a check to the bank (meaning that the difference between the sell price and the equity we had would pay the realtor, fees, taxes). That number was $135,000. It would represent taking a loss of about $40,000  in equity and improvements). I was hoping that we would be able to sell the house for exactly what we purchased it for six years ago, $145,000. That would give us enough money to close, plus enough to move. If we couldn't get back everything we put in, getting a little was my new best case scenario. That wasn't going to happen and you know how I panic.

My realtor sent me her recommendation for a listing price last week of $134,900. Almost exactly what my break even price was (minus taxes, doc fees, etc), but she also said that it was on the high end and should expect it to sell for less and that we should be thinking about our options. And we did, we have. I can't be a landlord. I wish I could. Financially it would make more sense. 

And then the miracle, which is actually 3 separate events making one great miracle.

1) The Deposition. In November my husband was deposed for a lawsuit. He isn't being sued, neither are his attendings, but DrH had a note in the medical record of a patient who is suing another doctor. In preparing for the deposition someone had mentioned that the attendings get paid $1,500/hour for their time in a deposition. DrH approached his program director to see if he could similarly get compensated. They discussed it, came up with a fee schedule and approved his deposition as "moonlighting". DrH took the day off, spent three hours on the deposition and submitted an invoice to the attorney for $3,000 not knowing if they would approve it or not. January 20th we received a check for $3,000.

2) The Military. In recounting these events I have already mentioned the military once. But they have come to our rescue again. Two years ago DrH attended a training course as part of his Reserve commitment. During that training they explained the process for obtaining additional compensation for non-military activities. This was something we had never heard of. At this point DrH had been in the reserves for two years and asked the commanding officer about submitting records for activities performed in the past. He was told to submit them if he had documentation. He spent months getting things prepared and submitted them. In our excitement we emptied our savings account again and went to visit family for a week. (Lesson: never spend money that you don't physically have in your possession even if you expect it shortly). Over the next 22 months he would inquire about their status. He would resubmit the documents 3 different times. We had just about given up on the possibility, determined that it was a lost cause. It wasn't going to be approved, and we were foolish for pursuing it. And then on February 3rd, we received a check for $8,189.05.

3) The Taxes. A few of my previous posts have been dedicated to taxes so I won't repeat my sentiments. Our refund this year was the largest it has been in any year, with the exception of our internship year. Our federal refund is $4,100.

Over the last 30 days the windows of heaven have opened and a total of $15,289.05 has been poured out upon us. Money we couldn't have foreseen. The deposition, no other resident had ever been deposed. The Military, we had given up. Our Taxes, we claim so many deductions during the year that we never expect much. It is a miracle. You may call it coincidence, but it is miraculous to me. This is a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. I would not be surprised if this is the exact amount we need to get out of our house and relocate to another state to finish our final year of training.

And if that wasn't enough I would add that over the last year as I have dreaded the prospect of selling our home I often tried to figure out how this was all going to work. The only solution I could come up with is that the global economy and housing market would need to correct itself before we needed to sell. I thought we needed a large scale miracle. And then I thought how foolish I am to think that God would correct the entire universe just so I could sell my house and have a few thousand dollars left to move. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and we would need to figure this out on our own. We had come to the conclusion that we would probably have to put our moving expenses on our credit card. A decision that would be breaking a commitment we made when we got married to never carry a balance on our credit card. A commitment we had been able to keep for 8 years.

Instead this last month the city we live in was listed in the 10 top cities for recovering home prices, and a major employer in the area just announced last week that they would be hiring 3,000 people - 300 of which would be located in this community of 175,000 this spring. The timing is perfect.

I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father loved me enough to open unseen paths for us and to postpone payments. I think of the position we would be in now if the $8,189.05 would have been received when it was expected two years ago. We probably would have "invested" in another something for the house that would have been "lost", or would have made another trip to Arizona, a newer vehicle, or ballet lessons for the girls, or date nights, or weekend trips. The point is that it would have been spent and gone.  Instead, He saved it for us and delivered it at just the right moment. I know that He knows me and has heard my pleas and I will never, ever forget the miracles that have happened in our family over this last year.

I am optimistic that we will sell our house. I am optimistic that we will have enough money to cover our expenses. I am excited about selling our home and moving because I know that everything will be all right, but I can't help but cry when I think about the amazing year we have had. What started as tears of fear and frustration 12 months ago have ended in tears of joy and gratitude.


  1. I never feel I that I can't afford to tithe. I always feel that I can't afford NOT to! I see that you have had the same experience. In fact, when things get really tough, I usually increase our amount of fast offerings as insurance that its all going to be okay.

  2. I loved this post. And needed it. It was a wonderful reminder for me. My husband is sending applications for fellowships right now... and I am wondering how we can possibly continue to live this way and pay back loans...

    Thank you so much.


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