celebrations, legacy, testimony, Uncategorized

Easter 2020:

A Week of Improv

 This Holy Week has been such a strange one – a Holy Week with the script massively edited.

I think most holidays have a script, whether it’s written or unwritten, stored in gray matter, or pixels or printed and bound in hardcover on the family bookshelf. Over the past dozen years or so, Jason and I have been editing ours. We’ve been writing and rewriting, trying hard to choose the right actors, sets, and action, cutting and adding what gets into the script, and trying to keep it short and focused on the thing we are really trying to celebrate. But even as we are working on this, it’s so easy for the scripted celebration to compete with the thing we are celebrating.

Palm Sunday communion at home

We are blessed to live in an age with so much creative content available at the flick of our scrolling fingers. There are just.so.many good things to help us keep our eyes on the journey to the Cross: beautiful art, moving music, hands-on activities and coloring pages, videos, recipes, blog posts and devotionals and carefully planned worship services. I love to curate and adapt and sometimes write these resources. Every year, Jason and I choose some things to do that we think will help our family make that journey from life to death to new life. It’s not always the same, but the worship services form the skeleton for the week: Palm Sunday with a processional, Maundy Thursday fellowship meal and worship, Good Friday service, and Easter Sunday celebration.  

But this year, as we stay home, it has been different. Different than usual, of course, but also different than what I expected. I thought we would have more time to do some of the things we don’t always have time to do – more coloring pages and kids’ activities, more acts of service, more all-family worship and devotional times. I thought the script would include some rewrites and some new scenes. I knew the dinner scene would look different, because we are functional cooks, not celebratory cooks like my parents. I didn’t know that it would look like we lost the script for most of the week. But we did, and it gave me pause to think about the disciples in a new way.

We used a script for a simple, beautiful Maundy Thursday liturgy that was a gift from Patti Gibbons at The Spacious Life https://instagram.com/thespacious.life?igshid=11hkvf0yf0a4b

Even though Jesus had prepared the disciples, they really didn’t get a sense of their roles until they were right in the middle of it. They thought they knew what to expect with the entry into Jerusalem. They thought they knew what the week would hold. They thought there was a script for Passover. But Jesus did some completely unexpected things at the Passover meal. And that was just the beginning of their realization that their roles were being rewritten.

They quickly found themselves saying lines they didn’t intend to say, doing things they didn’t think they would ever be doing. There was no neat order, no preparation, no planned menu, no supplies and materials gathered, no practice for how to huddle together in a locked room to avoid being executed, no rehearsal for how to celebrate and mark the crazy good news that your Lord who died right in front of your eyes has been raised from the dead. No menu for that celebration meal, and no order of worship. No florist delivery, no carefully hung wreaths or flower crosses or practiced orchestras. I am seeing that it must have been all higgledy piggledy for them, too – chaotic and scary, unprecedented, unpracticed, and unprepared.Those disciples were improvising, responding to each unexpected thing that happened with nothing but the preparation that Jesus had been doing in their hearts the whole time they had been walking together. Their world was upside down, and they were a scattered mess.

But Jesus used that mess to build his Church and to spread the good news of his love across the world. And He can use this mess in my house – this unprecedented, unpracticed, unprepared band of followers in each of our houses – in the same way to accomplish his purposes. But like the disciples, we aren’t unprepared for the important things. He has been preparing us as long as we have been walking with him. So now, may how we respond in our homes – even when our scripts have been tossed –  build the Kingdom one line at a time. And when the lines we deliver are wrong, when we and the other actors misstep, when the props aren’t at hand, and when the sets fall down, may we then give and receive the grace He offers the disciples and us by coming and sharing our everyday meals cooked over a campfire or served in our usual dining rooms. May this week of improv be used to spread the good news of His love and hope far and wide on whatever stage He gives us.  

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, 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.