Welcome, Joseph Eshetu!

Celebrate with us as we welcome Joseph Eshetu Gabriel Shores into our family! (After hearing the redemption story of Old Testament Joseph, he has changed his mind and wants to be called Joseph. But if you say Eshetu [Eh-shet-tu], that’s ok, too!)Joseph is seven years old and came home this past weekend from Maryland.

He’s originally from Ethiopia, but we are his second adoption and there will be a lot of mixed up feelings about that. I will share the amazing story of how he got to come home in a future post. Today, I just want to share a few thoughts so that might help you, our friends and family, when you meet Joseph.  1. Joseph had a hard life as a baby. Now, in many ways he is a brilliant, creative, and amazing seven-year-old, but in other ways (emotionally), he’s still much younger.  He is a very sensitive little boy.  He will spend most of his time near David Alan and myself, almost like a toddler. If you think that this looks weird, rest assured that we are following the advice of attachment therapists and we know what we’re doing.  2. We have to make many decisions about Joseph. Some of these include things like homeschooling, discipline, medications, sleeping arrangements, food options, etc. We do not make these decisions lightly and without consulting trained professionals. If you have an opinion that you think truly needs to be shared with us, please do not do it in front of Joseph. We know that you don’t want to undermine our parenting, but correcting us in front of him will (as experienced when our daughters came home). Please, do encourage us in the hard times!  3. Please try not to overwhelm Joseph when we come into a large crowd of friends. Feel free to come over and greet us, just try not to make that group too large. Let him take the lead on whether or not he wants a hug or a handshake or just to stand near you. (Please try not to say things that imply he’s “lucky” or “blessed” for being with us). Do, compliment him when he does something well or shows character, and remind him lots that he is a “Shores!”  4. We’re experimenting with Joseph’s diet in order to support his health, so please ask before you give him anything to eat.   5. Unfortunately, a tantrum is not out of the question. If you see Joseph having difficulties, please allow David Alan and/or myself to handle it. Don’t be surprised if this otherwise sweet, silly boy says unkind things or when we do not discipline him for saying those things in a “traditional” way. We will be providing discipline in the ways recommended by therapists who work with children like Joseph on a regular basis.   6.  We don’t want to share everything about Joseph’s background with everyone.  Please understand if we can’t give you an answer, and know that we won’t hold it against you.  (I would be curious, too!). ;)


7. Even though it will be hard for us to return messages or phone calls immediately, please forgive us and don’t leave us! We need our friends and family. It will be nice to get out of the house sometimes and have adult conversation, so please, always ask—even though we might have said no the last five times. Even the asking means so much to us. Also, it would be appreciated to know of a couple of people who would be willing to give us a night out on occasion or come over and help supervise Joseph while I organize (there’s still so much left to do!). Please let me know if you are willing.  That said, Joseph is a blessing for us to have in our home. Lydia, Ruby, Abigail, Zoey, and Isaiah are over-the-moon! They are thrilled that he is home and so far we’ve had some marathon Lego-playing sessions and a lot of yard wrestling with the boys. He has the mind of an engineer and is insatiably curious. He loves cuddling up with his big sisters and me. David Alan and I are well, but tired. He will not return to work until Thursday, so maybe we will catch up on rest before then.

Thank you all for your support—with finances, with prayers, and with calls to Frankfort to bring our son home. We could not have done this without you. God clearly has a plan for our precious boy! 

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Help Us Adopt Eshetu

God has made it clear to us that there is a missing piece to our family. While we were not actively looking to add to our family, this is the path he has us on.   So we are now announcing our puzzle fundraiser! In honor of our journey to add this extra piece, we have chosen a puzzle of Louisville. For every $20 you donate to our adoption, we will write your name on the back of one puzzle piece. (This means, if you give $100, we will write your name on 5 puzzle pieces. ) This 400-piece puzzle will hang in the boys’ room as a reminder of those who helped us bring him home. We want Eshetu to be able to look at all of the names on the backside of the puzzle and know that he was loved by a great community before he ever even arrived.   In addition to helping us complete the puzzle, for each amount of $20 given we will enter your name once into a drawing to win a brand new iPad Mini (16 MB, Wi-Fi, White/Silver) or a photo session with Dalila of 1986 Photography, www.dalilaof1986.com. (This means, if you give $100, your name will be entered five times to win a prize). We will randomly select winners after the fundraising ends, and other prizes may be added to the mix along the way. If you have already donated toward Eshetu’s adoption, don’t worry, your name will also be added the appropriate number of times to both the puzzle pieces and the giveaway.

If you want to donate, you can give in person or through the mail, or you can do PayPal. This must all happen very quickly because of the short timeline! He could be home within the next month or so. We appreciate your generosity!

Here is the breakdown of what we estimate to be our expenses:

Homestudy: $1250

Agency Fee: $3500 (Grant Received)

Lawyer Fee’s: $2500

Travel, Forms, etc*: $1500

*Please ask if you want to know what etc* incudes.

Here We Go, Again.

Two years ago, our family of four became a family of seven. (Seven!) It was not without difficulties, but it was clear that it was God’s plan for our family. As time has passed, we have found our fit and experienced great joy with our blended family. We praise God for what he has done in our lives!

Five kids is a lot, right? (The answer I am looking for is, “Yes, Miss Hannigan.”) Of course, we’ve learned to function in this world of “more”: more seats at the table, more mouths to feed, more clothes to fold, more passengers in the van, more minds to educate, more birthdays to celebrate, more late-night, heart-changing conversations, more joy. But we’ve never, ever, said, “Hey, you know what we need? We need more kids.”

It shocked us when we learned that God was saying this to us.

It’s been nearly two weeks since we saw Eshetu’s face and knew that he is our son. I can’t fully explain it. I’ve seen plenty of kids who need homes. I’ve read many sad stories. This time, though, was different, so we checked into his story.

Eshetu is a seven-year-old boy, who was adopted from Ethiopia three-and-a-half years ago. For reasons we don’t want to share publicly, his adoptive parents could no longer keep him, so he has been placed for adoption again. (I would like to be clear that given what we know of his story, we have no reason to fear that he will physically or sexually harm our other children.) This will be a domestic adoption, rather than an international one.  We have spent many hours praying about adopting Eshetu and have asked a few people who are part of our lives for wisdom and to be praying, as well. We have come to the conclusion that he is our son and we have to pursue him.  Here are a few things about Eshetu that fit well with our family:

1. He has some food sensitivities. We have learned to cook for various food sensitivities over the past two years, including gluten/wheat, dairy, eggs, yogurt, and black pepper.

2. He has a vision problem. He will need vision therapy just like Abigail went through last Fall. It helped her immensely and it can help him, too. This particular type of therapy requires that an eye doctor be specially trained and certified, and so it is something that is not available in every city. But we are only about 15 minutes from the Louisville office.

3. He would do best being homeschooled. Which we already do.

4. He has anxiety. I do wonder if this could be a reason why I have dealt with anxiety so much over the past two years, so that I could understand and identify with a child who is suffering from it. I get it. I really do. (Mine was related mainly to my thyroid not working properly and food sensitivities. I personally have not had a panic attack since last October and have had a great deal of joy again since we made some major changes in our life back in March.)

So we completed an application. We found a home study agency. And Eshetu could be coming home within one to two months!

We are not naïve. We are being educated. We are bracing ourselves for the difficulties. But imagining the coming difficulties does not mean that we can be disobedient to what God has called us to do. We want to walk in faith and not fear. We are reminded almost daily of our family verse:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9

We are nervous and excited, but we are not frightened and we are not dismayed.

He is with us.

Blessings Along the Road to Addis, Part 1

Documenting God’s Amazing Provision in the Midst of Our Adoption Process

Our finances as a family were fairly stable prior to our commitment to adopt.   We didn’t have a lot of excess cash, but we were at least capable of paying our bills and taking care of the occasional car repair or doctor’s fee.  However, when we first began discussing the topic in the spring of 2010, our air conditioner and furnace began to act strangely and seemed to need some work.  Though the problem soon resolved itself, a branch fell and crushed our backyard shed a short time later.  We had to replace it, so we put our adoption talk on hold.  We convinced ourselves that the responsible thing to do was to take care of ourselves first.  We dragged our feet, knowing the whole time that we were being disobedient, but committing to further pursue this path once we were “financially stable enough”—whatever that means.  I felt a twinge of guilt every time someone asked how our investigation into adoption was going.  “It’s not,” I’d think to myself.  “We’re still looking into it,” I’d answer aloud.  Then, I’d recall the Somalis we met in Djibouti whose earthly riches were contained entirely within a herd of camels.  In a matter of days, a mysterious disease could wipe out the entire herd, and devastate any family’s desert “bank account.”  How precarious is our wealth.

Over the course of the next couple of years, we came to trust God’s provision more than our own.  At the end of January 2012, we submitted our application at an adoption conference at the ministry center down the street, walked home, and, upon entering the house, heard the furnace suddenly, and permanently, give up its fight.  First, we spent a few hours in denial, then we prayed about it, and finally we called an HVAC worker who announced that it not only was irreparably broken, but it was actually sending a small amount of carbon monoxide back into the basement.  Relieved that by this point it was already March and unseasonably warm, we asked a few companies to come out with estimates and expected that we could save up and put it off until fall.

We were caught completely off-guard one day in the summer, when Marty, a member of our former church who is also in the HVAC business (US AIR Heating and Air Conditioning) called us with the news that his company was offering to donate a furnace and that he and his son Cody would drive the three-and-a-half hours north to install it themselves!  This was a blessing we never could have foreseen, but it has reminded us, as my friend says, that God “does not call the equipped, but he equips the called.”

It’s cold here this morning and when I awoke and felt the warm heat escaping from the floor vents, I thought of Marty and his family.  I thought of how his wife Tracie read that we were in need and asked him if there wasn’t something they could do to help.  I thought of Mt. Hermon Baptist Church and how the new furnace was channeled through them to us.  And I thought of the Body of Christ and how it is working together to bring a yet unknown orphan into a small, but warm, home in Louisville.  I want to remember this.

Shores Adoption Fundraising Update

We have successfully completed Phase 1 of our adoption plan!  OK, so these aren’t official phases.  I actually separated this process into four distinct phases (homestudy, dossier, referral, and travel), because it helps me to swallow this elephant of a goal when I can eat it bite by bite.  With one of those tiny shrimp forks.  Thanks to the help of many of you, we’ve raised (and paid out to our agency) $6,946.32!  We’ve also finally completed our home study and are simply waiting for our social worker to finish writing it up to make it official.  We have about a month or so to raise the $3,726.66 needed for Phase 2, which will get our dossier sent off and then we will wait a few months for our referral, when our child will be matched with us.  We have already received a $1,000 grant (which I’ve already figured into the bolded total mentioned above), and will be applying for other grants once the home study paperwork is finalized.  We have a donations-based yard sale scheduled for June 30th and are thankful to those of you who have made flat donations or purchased unique bracelets from our Almost Africa Etsy shop and from my new Jamberry Nails online store, as I am now an independent consultant for this really cool product (if you don’t already know what these are, click over and find out–and feel free to make a purchase while you’re there or let me know if you want to host an in-home party).

Here’s the breakdown of the upcoming costs:

PHASE 2

CIS Application Fee:  $890.00

3rd Agency Fee:  $1,916.66 (with grant applied)

FedEx fees (dossier sent to agency):  $45.00

FedEx fees (authentication shipping):  $300.00

Dossier Authentication:  $575.00

The [Almost] Impossible Task

One of the things that initially kept us from wholeheartedly pursuing adoption was the cost.  It is not uncommon to peruse an agency brochure and see a $ followed by five panic-inducing numeric symbols that look something like this: $20,000-$30,000.  This brochure promptly gets A) thrown into the nearest recycle bin, B) stowed in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind location (such as the unruly pile on the dresser, under a mattress, or in an overstuffed glove compartment) or C) spontaneously bursts into flames.

Months later, you stumble upon this brochure again.  This time, though–and who can say whether this Grinch-like growth is simply because the cost is now more familiar or is due to an increased faith in God’s provision–maybe . . . could it be . . . possible?

People have raised greater sums of money than this in walk-a-thons benefitting research for tragic diseases like thinning eyelashes or in honor of a rescue center that takes in stray turtles . . . probably.

And our God owns the much talked of “cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10), right?  And “nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37), right?  Right?

The thing is, when God provides financially, rolls of quarters typically don’t rain down from the sky (thank goodness!).  Usually he chooses to provide through work opportunities and through his Church.  Since we began this journey, God has provided nearly all of the first two payments, as well as other miscellaneous costs, simply through hard (extra) work, such as babysitting for a friend’s daughter several days a week and running an Etsy shop, cutting back where we can, a grant, and a few generous early donations.  We are currently less than $1000 away from making our next fee payment in about a month and a half.

Clearly, though, this will be a long process with a lot of little battles along the way.  Once we get through the home study, we will be eligible for additional grants and we will be asking you to make tax deductible donations at that time.  Why would we ask you for that?  At first, we felt really weird about asking for donations, too.  Well, [and this really makes so much sense!] when you make a donation to our adoption, you are saying, “We love your family and want to allow you to bless an orphan by giving him a home–and watch him bless us all back.  We want to live out the gospel message for the world to see.  We not only stand behind you and support you in word, but also in deed.”

That’s beautiful.  Someone should design a Hallmark card that expresses that sentiment.  Thank you for your kind words and action!

In order to be as up front as possible about our needs over the next year or so, I’m going to post our approximate costs.  If you feel led to contribute to our adoption fund, whether it be $10 or $1000, please commit to do so at this time.  Right now, there are two ways to do this:

  1. Shop at our Etsy store for fun, African-inspired items.  Share our shop with your friends and invite them to order, too!
  2. If you don’t need or want any of the items in our shop, please consider giving a one-time or monthly donation.  We actually have a ministry-related tax deductible number, and if you’d like to give this way, message me and I’ll send you the address to do that.

So, take a deep breath, remember that God is faithful and that grants are available, and:

PHASE 1

Application Fee                                                                        $250

1st Agency Fee                                                                        $2,916.66

Parent’s Passports                                                                        $240.00

Passport Pictures                                                                        $20.00

International Adoption Clinic Pre-Adoption Seminar            $150.00

NCFA Parent Training                                                            $195.00

Fingerprint Fee (for Home study)                                                $108.00

Birth Certificates (1 copy each)                                                $40.00

Marriage License (1 copy)                                                            $20.00

Background check                                                                        $40.00

Medical Reports (depending upon insurance)                        ~$50.00 in co-pays

2nd Agency Fee                                                                        $2,916.66

PHASE 2

CIS Application Fee                                                                        $890.00

3rd Agency Fee                                                                        $1,916.66 (with grant applied)

FedEx fees (dossier sent to Lifeline)                                    $45.00

FedEx fees (authentication shipping)                                    $300.00

Dossier Authentication                                                            $575.00

PHASE 3:  6-9 Months Later

Referral Fee for one child                                                            $9,200.00

Referral Fee for additional child                                                $5,000.00

PHASE 4:  In Country Expenses

Estimated around $9000

Once you regain consciousness, pray and ask God what he might have you to give.  Love and thanks!

Children of God

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This is Abby.  She has access to health care, sleeps in a warm bed, and eats three meals a day (even if her diet does consist of an inordinate amount of Little Caesar’s Hot ‘N Ready pizza).  She officially begins kindergarten this fall and will probably choose to go to college someday.  She regularly hears her parents preach the gospel to her.  She is our beloved daughter.
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This is Aster*.  She is an orphan in Ethiopia.  She is only one of 5 million orphans in that country alone. Though her caretakers do the best they can, food, education, health care, and sometimes even beds are severely limited.  And they are not her family.  When she ages out of the orphanage, she will likely be forced to live on the street. She may or may not ever hear what Jesus has done for her.

          Everyone of us was born into a hostile world of sin and suffering–our pain an inheritance from the first two people to ever set foot on this earth.  We were orphans, helpless, unable to crawl out of a pit of sin that simply became deeper with each passing day.  But there was one who took pity on our state.  And this, even while we were far from being as cute as Aster.
          He desired to have a relationship with us.  And not just any relationship.  Not simply that of an employer and an employee or a master and his slave.  Not simply a friend or a teacher.  Through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has given us “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”, (Romans 8:15).
          Our God is the One who declares that he has “plans to give [us] hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11).  He has also called out for his own glory a body of believers who are to demonstrate that hope. We are to emulate him by giving generously to those who are in need, loving the refugees among us, and providing families for the fatherless.  We are to do (through his power) on earth what he has already done for us spiritually.
          There should be no difference between Abby and Aster, but because we live in a world crippled by sin, there is.  And with only a slight change in timing and location, my daughter could be found facing the same circumstances.  But because our God is a God of redemption, and he is changing me to become more like him, I can open my home and my heart to an orphan and make her my daughter, too.
          “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are,”  (1 John 3:1).  So we are.
(*I don’t know this little girl personally and have given her a name for the purpose of this post.  Top photo from Erika Chambers Photography.  Bottom photo from For His Name Photography.)
If you would like to help support our Ethiopian adoption, please consider purchasing a bracelet or another fun item from our Etsy shop.  Thanks!

Rockin’ This Family Tree

We made a commitment to pursue adoption.

This was followed by a year and a half of questions:  Could we really, truly love and accept a child that wasn’t born into our home?  How would our kids react, and later, interact with one another.  How on earth would we ever get the money to finance such an undertaking?

Which was punctuated by a greater understanding of my own adoption through Christ.  (As in the, “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Rom. 8:15-type of adoption).

Then, the other day, over two years later, while we’re in the midst of our adoption homestudy, it hit me:  We do know orphans.  Well, OK, not all of the facts and figures, per se, but we know names and faces.

  • We know Said and his brother Ibrahim.  They lost both of their parents in Somalia when they were young.  Their hard-working aunt then took them in and has raised them, even as they arrived in America as refugees.  We’ve known them for six years and they’ve taken part in many of our family activities.  I love these boys like they are part of our family.  No, they are a part of our family.
  • We know Changwa and her twin sister Hawa.  In the broadest definition, a child who has lost even one parent is considered an orphan.  Their father died six years ago, shortly after arriving in the US with the family, leaving their mother, who suffers from various health problems, to raise them.  They are the youngest of her 13 biological children.  We’re teaching Changwa to drive and sometimes I watch her, incredulously, and think, “Is this what it’s going to be like to have a teenage daughter?  God, help us!”  But she is so smart and determined.  She has the potential to do something incredible with her life.  And we’re watching.
  • We know Adonisi, originally from Burundi, whose father is dead.  For the past several years, he’s worn a path on our street as he’s passed from his mom’s apartment on one side to the community center at the other end.  We’re a frequent stop on his journey, and he inevitably ends up sitting in our kitchen holding a cup of water and whatever cookie we happen to have in the cupboard at the moment (yeah, I have a “mom” stash).  He has an adorable smile and loves playing with our kids.  They love him, too.

None of these loved ones is adoptable, but if any of them ever needed a home, buddy, you’d better believe we’d be shoving another bunk bed up the stairs faster than they could pack a suitcase!  I wouldn’t even have to think about it!

God’s prepared our family for this and I never even noticed it until a few days ago!

There are orphaned children around the world right now who are much like Said, Ibrahim, Changwa, Hawa, and Adonisi, except that they have no one who is willing or able to offer them a place to sleep or a warm meal.  They will not have opportunities for college scholarships.  Perhaps no one will teach them how to drive or how to interview for a job or love them unconditionally when they do something completely ridiculous.  Indeed, many will die from curable diseases during childhood and the survivors will end up on the street once they are sent out of the orphanage.

But we have room.  We have access to beds, medication, education and food in the fridge.  We have love that comes from the One who has first loved us.  And now we’re simply waiting for God to rock our family tree.

Fresh Tracks

I wonder if, when God called him away from his home country to establish a new one, Abraham’s legs felt as unsteady as a newborn camel trying to stand and walk in a forward motion without faltering.  I wonder whether fear or excitement was his predominate emotion as he set out on the adventure of his life.  Maybe it was a mixture of both.  “So [Abraham] went, as the LORD had told him,” is what the Bible says (Gen. 12:4).  I guess that’s all we really need to know, in the end.  Abraham’s obedience is [much] later confirmed and commended in Hebrews 11:8-12.  It was his faithfulness to God’s call that mattered.  I want to be faithful like that.

It’s so easy for me to get distracted by all of the, well, distractions of life.  I want my longing for comfort, security, and habit to be overwhelmed by God’s leading–out of my pathetic plywood shanty and into God’s city.  So, it’s with this attitude, that I’ve faced some unusual situations over the course of this past year, in spiritual growth to be sure, but also in considering the growth of our family.

It was last January when we began seriously considering international adoption.  (Why international adoption?  We have several reasons that I’ll discuss later in another post.  In short, we have friends who have adopted beautiful children both domestically and internationally, and each individual family’s path has been the right fit for them.)  We had talked about adoption, in theory, earlier in our marriage, but some close friends pointed us in the direction of a reputable adoption agency (the one that they are using) and we also began to attend several adoption events later in the year.  Suddenly, we knew plenty of people who had adopted, and none of them (to my knowledge) have the bank account of Angelina Jolie or Madonna.  This shot our theory that international adoption is “just too expensive.”  Indeed, we have heard story after story (and we’ve done our research!), of God’s incredible financial provision to those He has called to the task of adoption.  Seeing Him provide so lavishly, greatly blesses not only the adoptive family, but their communities and churches, as well.  Those who give are able to watch their monetary gifts multiply as they’re combined with the gifts of others, and they get to know that they have contributed to bringing a child home, into a loving family.  A year ago, we imagined we would be saving our pocket change in a jar for the next fifteen years until we were finally ready for such an expenditure, but since beginning our research, we’ve learned that people are actually willing and eager to see God match orphans with families who are willing to open their homes.  And we’re willing to open our home!

All of this came to a head a few weeks ago, when we were faced with a decision.  We could travel to Ethiopia with another couple to study for the summer, if we were willing to raise the funds.  When we asked them to send us the total cost of the trip and we began plugging in our own numbers, we realized that the overall cost would be comparable to the cost of an adoption.  It hit us, quite suddenly, that for the price of a summer trip, we could bring home a child for the rest of his or her life!  We were reminded of our commitment last year to pursue adoption, and we recognized that God was showing us that His path for our family is different than it is for our friends who are still planning to travel to East Africa this summer.  (And, by the way, we believe that they are following God’s plan for their family by going to Ethiopia for the summer and we pray for them in their journey–different people, different plans.)

For some who read this, our intentions may seem crazy.  But please don’t misunderstand and think that this has not been well thought out and discussed often within our home.  Abraham’s journey seems strange until we take a Hebrews-eyeview of his life and realize that there was a bigger plan he couldn’t entirely see all along the way.  We’re determined to follow God as He leads us concerning adoption. We’re praying for the child that God may lead to us (by means of our adoption agency).  We’re praying for the family that will be making the hard decision to give up their child–all because we live in a world ruined by sin.   We’re praying that God will supply the financial means (through gifts and grants) in order to make adoption possible.  And we’re praying that we will “journey on,” (Gen. 12:9) as Abraham, eager to see how God will provide, how He will continue to strengthen our faith in Him, and waiting until we might finally gaze upon another sweet little star in our family’s sky.

We’re turning in our application, the first of many steps that will follow on this adoption journey.  “Here we raise our ebenezer.”