adoption, celebrations, family, milestones, testimony

Whew… it’s been quite a while since we last updated this. But, I’m here today to share about what’s been going on in the past year with my littlest sister.

One year ago yesterday, we held this sweet girl for the first time. For those of you who haven’t met her yet, this is our precious Eleanor Mae.

One year ago today, we walked across this construction zone. This was  the only way to get to the Civil Affairs Building where Rui Shan was waiting to meet us.

It was an interesting and visible reminder that the enemy doesn’t want orphans to be in families; a physical barrier. We know, however, that our loving God wants us to care for orphans and He will provide a way for us to get through the physical and spiritual obstacles.

When we walked into the room, our little sister was lying on a caretaker’s lap and we learned that was just about the only thing she could do. Since then, she has made huge strides!

In the past year, Ellie has started eating solid foods (mashed or cut into little bits and spoon-fed). She can sit up on her own. She is mobile: she can roll both ways and go from sitting up to lying down and from lying down to sitting up. She has started to bear weight and has had rodding surgery to make her bones straight so they are less prone to a significant fracture. She is working on communication, and will soon add speech therapy to her regular rotation of physical and occupational therapy.

Eleanor particularly enjoys:

  • Eating
  • Music
  • Hanging out in her own house
  • Playing on the floor
  • Playing with toys and books
  • Swinging
  • Being talked to and played with
  • Being held and carried
  • Swimming – especially with her grandparents, who took her for her first real swim time
  • Her siblings’ antics, horseplay, and romping
  • Her daily routines

On her 2nd birthday – before we even got to meet her – we began praying Psalm 27 for this precious girl. Here are a few verses in picture:

The Lord is my light and my salvation —     Whom shall I  fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life–    of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me  it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, and to seek him in his temple.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;   

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;

At his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;  be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait  for the Lord.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Psalm 27: 1-8; 13-14

 

Today marks the one year anniversary of when Eleanor officially became a Scheopner. China’s adoption process requires a 24 hour period of getting to know the child before the actual adoption. One year ago today, all the official paperwork was signed and stamped with Mom and Dad’s thumbprints and Eleanor’s footprint. Eleanor is such a blessing to us and we can’t imagine life without her. God has provided in so many ways throughout the whole adoption process and we know that He will continue to lovingly lead us each step of this journey together.

Blessings,                                                                                                                                                                                      Juliana

adoption, family, fundraising, legacy, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago – before an enormous garage sale, a sudden and successful surgery, and out-of-town friends coming – I wrote about my doubts about how this adoption could really happen, and about God’s answer as to how He would bring it to pass here, if you missed it.  Today, as I continue the idea of how this adoption is happening, I’ll tell you four little stories that each came at exactly the right time to remind us to trust Him for reassurance, resources, restoration, and relationships.

Reassurance

The day we decided to go ahead with sending in the initial paperwork to our agency and the first of the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) forms, not having any clear answers to the litany of “How” questions we were each still trying not to obsess over contemplating, we received an unexpected gift in the mail. There was a note and a check – completely unrelated to this not-yet-public news – and we were blown away by the reassurance that God will provide for every need of His children, however He wants, whenever He wants.

This has happened multiple times at timely intervals in the past few months; plainly, we have a number of friends who are in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who are responding with joy and generosity! My children have seen some bizarre reactions as I have read email, opened envelopes, answered the door, received texts – crazy laughter, spontaneous tears, and audible gasps just to name today’s visible responses. It is flat-out incredible and deeply humbling to get a glimpse of how many of you are loving this child and are coming alongside her and us in this journey.

Resources

We saw that same kind of supernatural provision again as we started educating ourselves about parenting a child who was adopted. Multiple friends recommended that we read The Connected Child, so I ordered a copy and immersed myself in it. Jason also read it, and we both realized that not only is this going to be crucial for Rui Shan, but also we can be better parents to the children who are in our home right now by beginning to implement some of the principles outlined by the authors. Figuring out how to do that was a huge and daunting task, and just as we were asking, “How can we do this?” we became aware that a magical solution conference called “Empowered to Connect” was being broadcast at a local church, so I signed up, found cheerful helpers to spend the day with our kids, and got coached in some of the basics of implementing the connecting principles that Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross identify as key.

Some weeks later, when we were stumped by how to implement some of the things we learned, we received an email from Show Hope, an adoption advocacy movement dedicated to restoring the hope of families to waiting children around the world.  We had not been selected to receive one of their grants as we had hoped; nonetheless, they were offering us free access to the very resources we had just been needing – DVDs covering the topic we were struggling to implement, as well as a copy of The Connected Child, which we had been wanting to share with someone we know. In spite of not being able to give grants to each family, they wanted to help us in the way they could to prepare our home for the child they knew would be coming into our family through God’s provision in some other way.

Restoration

In praying and considering how we might earn some additional money to funnel toward the adoption, I applied for a temporary position which would have fit my skills and timeline exactly. For God’s reasons, I was not chosen for the position, and as I was working through the disappointment, I had two friends call to tell me the Lord had put me on their heart to be praying for me that very day.  One of them specifically had called to ask if we were fully funded yet, because the Lord had placed it on her heart to be praying for me, and as she did, she had heard the Lord telling her a particular figure to send toward our adoption. It was a tremendous balm from God that He had impressed it upon friends to be ministering to me, and further that He knew that not only was I battling disappointment, but also that I was wondering where the money was going to come from. It was a humbling lesson to me that as much as I like to be capable, in control, independent, and resourceful in my own right, He is doing something bigger in this adoption by requiring us to be dependent on Him and to do this according to His plan.

Relationships

As important as anything else in this adoption, what we are seeing  – and knowing Jesus, this is no surprise – is that His plan seems to be very much about building relationships. The piece of paper we sent in to assure the CCCWA of our plan to nurture Rui Shan read, in part, “Our family and friends are all aware of our adoption plan and are happy and supportive of it. She will be loved by all of our extended family and friends.” What we have seen, as we have begun to share this need, is that we are getting to know and understand that each one of us has gifts to offer. Because of this adoption and the kids’ fundraiser, Operation: Adoption, we have met a number of beautiful,new friends in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. Through the garage sale, we met countless (literally – this will be a separate post!) people who wanted to be part of this journey. As we have interacted with people throughout our city and beyond all summer long, we have been excited to share what God is doing, and have been amazed and delighted by so very many people sharing with us their own, or their family’s or their friend’s story of an adoption journey.

James 1:27 teaches us that we are to care for widows and orphans in times of need, and we are seeing how very active our community is in living this out. We have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination both by having financial resources available as we need to send in a payment because of the faithfulness of loved ones and new friends, and equally by knowing that people who love and shower this kind of care on a child whom they haven’t yet met are standing ready to love a child who will be coming home to join our community. Because of these amazing interactions, we had not even one doubt when we signed the care and nurture plan that our little daughter will be loved by a welcoming and supportive community: we are already seeing it, and it is crazy amazing! Thank you!

adoption, family

In the midst of preparing for an absolutely enormous garage sale to add to our adoption fund, we paused to work on a project that is at the heart of what we are doing:

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We are tying heart strings with a precious daughter who was born and is being raised in China.  We will soon be on our way to bring her into our family. In the meantime, however, we are hoping that even as we prepare, her little heart will also be getting ready for this big transition, and that her foster family will experience peace and hope as they help her to prepare.

On our side of the globe, with the help of a wonderful app called Pleco, we are learning a bit of Mandarin, some Chinese characters, and the written pinyin that will help us remember how to pronounce the characters.

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Rui Shan is the “mei mei” or little sister. We hope our handwriting is legible!

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We included a note to the dear people who are caring for Rui Shan, some sweets to share with her family, her caregivers, or her class, and some cameras which we are hoping they will use to capture elements of her daily life in China so she can “remember” her baby days.

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May this small package help her and her caregivers to feel the love that surrounds them from afar for now!

 

 

 

adoption, China, family, fundraising, milestones

to bring you a real-time update.

One thing you may not know is that our children would like to accompany us on the upcoming trip to China.

When we first started thinking about the configuration of what travel might look like, we came up with a number of possible groupings of who would stay and who would go. But the more we talked to people about it, and thought and prayed about it, the more clear it became that in this case, our very best scenario would involve all four of our children coming along to welcome their little sister into our family. Our agency identified a number of wonderful advantages to the whole family going, and we can think of several additional important reasons that would make this the best situation for Rui Shan, and each of the children. Obviously this will add additional expenses – for travel, particularly, and a bit for lodging – so our oldest three children formed a cooperative business called Operation: Adoption to contribute to the additional expenses, and our youngest son is collecting aluminum cans to recycle to boost the fund.

Through Carloads of Cans and Operation: Adoption, we have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination! Our big kids have offered their services to residents of nearby neighborhoods to perform all sorts of odd jobs, yard work, pet sitting, baby sitting, etc. in exchange for a donation to the adoption fund. And have they ever been blessed already! Not only have a number of neighbors offered them a wonderful opportunity to work, but through both of these ventures we have all had the chance to meet and get to know some amazing neighbors we otherwise might not have connected with. Best of all, we have discovered that we are definitely part of a community that loves and welcomes this little girl. We know that we are made to be in community, and this summer has already been a perfect reminder of the gift that we have in our neighbors and friends, old and new!

So our days look like this right now:

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Preparing for a HUGE garage sale next weekend to raise funds for our adoption. (Please spread the word!) We are praying for an *incredible* number of customers to buy the things many of you have so generously contributed!

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Operation:Adoption – weeding

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Operation: Adoption – preparing a garden site

 

 

And in the midst of all this industry, look what arrived:

 

 

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It’s our I-800! Today’s mail told us that we are one milestone closer to our trip, and we are trying not to freak out amazed by how quickly this is going!

 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:1-2, 12)

 

adoption, family, testimony, Uncategorized

Who? What? When? Why? Where? How? As my fourth grade teacher taught it, answering the five Ws and an H are pretty basic parts to telling a story. Although this isn’t exactly our story, we do have the privilege of being part of God’s story and for the moment, we get to be the storytellers of what we see God doing as this story of our daughter’s adoption unfolds.

We started telling you about this adventure with a little picture to identify what is happening in our family right now. We’ve also been filling in the parts about when this will happen as it is unfolding. Right now we’re in a giant holding spot. The who and where will have to wait until we have permission to share from our agency and the Chinese governmental agency, and the how is a post for another day soon. But the why of this story is something we’ve been wanting to answer, because there is the asked and sometimes unasked question about why a family already blessed with four children in our home and a full life would be entering into this journey of adoption.

The short answer is because there is a precious child waiting for a family, and we are that family. The details take a few more column inches.

For about six years, we have prayed about whether the Lord was calling us to adopt a child. As we have prayed and waited for an answer, the Lord has allowed us to have experiences and conversations that have prepared us for this journey. Some of our experiences have been extremely painful – stillbirth, miscarriage, a cancer journey with two parents, the loss of one parent and our beloved pastor to cancer. Some of the experiences have been pure joy – welcoming a new child through birth, supporting friends in their adoption journeys, investing in an on-line community of families who travel to our city to get care for their children with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). God wove these things together, with some other threads, and the picture He revealed tugged at both Jason and me in the same way one day last fall.

One of the circumstances our family has faced was our oldest daughter’s diagnosis of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. She was a toddler when we learned of her brittle bones, and very shortly after that, we also discovered that we live in one of the top places in America for the treatment of OI. Over the years, we have had the incredible privilege to get to know many of the families who come from all over the world to our city for clinic and surgeries. These families are part of an incredible on-line support network and community of friends that are, in many cases, like family.

In this OI community, there are occasionally profiles shared of babies or children who have OI and are waiting to be adopted. Whenever I see these profiles, I always send the notice on to Jason, and then along with our children, I begin praying for that child’s family. Last September, a picture of a 17 month old baby girl in China began to circulate in our OI group. I texted a screenshot to Jason – as I have done so many times before – and as the children and I were praying for “Shannon’s” forever family, I felt a funny tugging at my heart. I acknowledged it to myself, but a few minutes later, I got a surprising text from Jason. In the past Jason’s responses were always something like,“Yes, let’s pray for this child’s family.” But that September day, he wrote, “Let’s find out more.” So that afternoon I made inquiries, and two weeks later, with prayerful consideration by our entire family, we determined that we needed to pursue the adoption of this baby and we mailed off our application. ***

In addition to obedience to this delightful call from God, part of the answer to “Why?” is that we also have felt for years that our family was not yet complete. The irony of this is that I was fairly certain when Jason and I married that our family would be *perfectly* complete with two children, and he was equally certain that four was the ideal number of children. Eight pregnancies and the beginning of an adoption journey later, it is obvious that neither one of us had any idea what God had in mind for us, and that is a very good thing – we could never have believed it or, in some cases withstood it, if it hadn’t been revealed to us a little bit at a time.

As God has shown us next steps all along the way in our marriage and parenting relationships, He has also shown us the delight He takes in parenting us, and it has multiplied exponentially our joy in parenting. When we see tantrums, selfishness, or willful disobedience in our children, we can clearly see ourselves through God’s eyes – wholly loved even when in error. Likewise, when we receive a glorious fistful of wonderful, wilting dandelions, or are blessed by a child cheerfully doing a chore, or are treated to a spontaneous heart-level conversation, we can sense the joy our Heavenly Father takes when we offer Him our most beautiful treasure, when we serve gladly, and when we take time to talk to Him

Jason and I aren’t nearly through learning yet – there is so much growth yet to be done in both of us; when God invited us to parent another little blessing, and in this new journey to see His love and learn from Him along this path, it humbled us.

(It also challenged every single practical thought we had, but that is really a post about how, which I will share soon.)

***We had not been planning to adopt. We didn’t have a home study or even an agency. We hadn’t begun to make financial preparations for an international adoption. We did not even have passports. But those details are no obstacle for God. We decided to step into this calling with trust in His provision. Almost immediately we received an unexpected financial blessing. It was an amazing confirmation that God wants to provide for this precious daughter of His, and that we are part of His plan to care for her.

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adoption, celebrations, family, milestones, Uncategorized

Our dear, darling daughter on the other side of the world from us turned two today.  We are so thankful for the gift of her life – for the parents who gave her life, for her foster parents and nannies who are loving on her today and sustaining her, and for the many people whose work is enabling her life and our lives to be joined together. We are so eager to be able to mark milestones with her before too long. Tonight we had to mark the big day without the guest of honor, but we are mindful that each day that passes brings us nearer to our time to meet and hold her, and to begin to let her know how special she is to us, and above all to God.  We can’t wait to celebrate with her in the years to come!

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adoption, China, dossier, family, fundraising, milestones

Did you see that finish?  Two 3-pointers in the last 5 seconds – one from North Carolina to tie the game and one from Villanova for the win and the national championship.  Guess that is why they call this tournament March Madness.  With that final buzzer, our Freethrows for Family contest comes to a close as well.  We are so blessed by each of you that participated in the game and for your generous contributions to our adoption fund.   We are happy to report that the Gaskill family won the iPad with the #40 square.

Additionally, in the middle of the craziness of hosting a speech and debate tournament for 100 students last week, we received our log in date on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  This is the date that our dossier was officially entered into the system for review by PRC.

Welcome Home

Travel to China

Invitation to travel

Finalize Immigration

Letter of Approval (LOA)

Log-in Date (LID) - 3/31/2016

Dossier to China (DTC) - Completed

Authenticate Documents - Completed

Immigration Approval (I800-A) - Completed

Homestudy - Completed

Pre-approval to adopt - Completed

family, investment, legacy, Uncategorized

Two weeks ago yesterday, we went and spent the evening with my centenarian grandfather, knowing it was likely going to be our last goodbye. We shared a time of worship, of sharing scripture, of talking to him and thanking him for his teaching in our lives. He knew we were there, and in the way he responded to each of us, I am certain that he was able to hear the words of blessing and gratitude we each got to speak to him, after the many years he has spoken life-giving words to each of us.

I am sad. I miss him. He was my friend, a wise counselor, a perennial storyteller and a beloved mentor. For the four years I was in college, while my own dad was in Kuwait, while my parents and sister were half a continent or more away, he and my grandmother were my intimate family nearby. He rescued me when I was sick in the middle of a class, when I fell and went to the emergency room, when I needed to make sure the young man I met in my first days on campus was worthy of my time. My grandfather gave gentle, sage advice, founded on the bedrock of his faith in Christ. His influence is one that helped shape and guide me from my tiny years until this past weekend. And I suspect it isn’t over. Good teaching reverberates.

What I didn’t realize was that his impact was so long-lasting in other people’s lives, too. His last few birthdays have brought cards from former students, neighbors, colleagues, nieces, nephews, and church friends, so I knew he was treasured by many, and that his legacy was broad. But this past weekend when we went to his funeral in the town where he taught , where Jason and I went to college, met, and were eventually married, we spent an afternoon walking our children around the college campus that was the scene of all these events.

We had an amazing revelation when we went into the building that had housed my grandfather’s department. It was the Friday afternoon before spring break, and the entire campus was pretty quiet, so we popped in to the administrative offices so they would know why strangers were walking through the halls. When I started with, “Hi! We’re in town for my grandfather’s funeral and wanted to show our children where he had spent so many hours and years,” I was fine and steady-voiced until one of the women in the office said, “You’re Warren’s granddaughter! We were just talking about him at lunch today.”

Friends, he retired from that department 35 years ago! My tears bore witness to the fact that I just couldn’t believe that they not only remembered him, but that they too were touched by his life. One of the women who had known him when he used to spend time in the department after he retired offered to spend her time walking us through the building so we could see not only where he used to spend his days and evenings teaching and advising students, but also could see the ways that his department’s foundational post-war years made way for the current offerings. It was unbelievable, and Brenda’s kind remembrance and sacrificial time-gift were an amazing blessing from the Lord.

That tour and the memories we exchanged teed up the next morning at the same church where I often sat in the pew with my grandparents. Shortly before the service began, I had the privilege of meeting the current senior department member whom my grandfather often spoke of with deep respect when he introduced himself, identifying my grandfather as his mentor. There were Sunday school class members, current and retired faculty members from his department and other departments, neighbors from 50+ years ago, “kids” who had lived with him and my grandmother while studying at the college…

Our kids shared the scripture. One read Psalm 61, in which we hear “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”  One read Proverbs 3:1-18, which sums up so much about my intelligent, faithful, humble grandfather. One of our children shared John 14:1-7, pointing to the truth Grandpa knew so well, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that we can each know where we are going to spend eternity if we choose a relationship with Jesus.

The pastor at my grandparents’ home church arrived after my grandparents had moved to the metro to be closer to their family, but his message was spot on – that although he hadn’t known my grandfather in person, he knew him through the scripture passages, and that we can all learn one more lesson from this consummate teacher.  Grandpa loved his subject matter, and he loved teaching and preparing teachers, but it wasn’t ever the subject or content that he loved best about teaching. Above all, he was always most interested in the people, in knowing and investing in people, in sharing stories to inspire people to rise to achieve their fullest potential, in helping each person he spoke to grow to be the best he or she could be. And as the pastor pointed out, Grandpa has one final lesson – this time about the Rock who is higher than he – to teach.  Like all his stories and lessons, we can choose to receive and learn or to dismiss. He always hoped his students would catch what he was telling them, but like Christ, he was a gentle teacher, and he would leave the decision to learn up to each of us.

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This was a typical scene in my grandparents’ home; Grandpa loved to teach and tell stories, and we could listen and learn for hours. He was good at investing in people, and it was a privilege to get to sit at his feet.