Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No longer an orphan.

We have some BIG news! I haven’t posted it until now because... well... nothing I could think to say had the ability to carry the weight of this announcement! So I have finally decided to just announce it and realize any presentation will fall drastically short. 

On March 30th, 2017- a beautiful baby boy was born in a southern state of India known as Tamil Nadu. 

On July 14, 2017 - due to unfavorable circumstances and a world full of brokenness, that baby boy was legally declared an orphan by the court system in his hometown. 

On August 31st, 2017 - a coordinator for an American adoption agency saw a photo of that little boy on India’s adoption database. This coordinator MATCHED that little boy with an American family carrying the last name Blackburn. 

On September 6, 2017 - the adoption coordinator had received all the updates she needed from the orphanage so she made a phone call to the Blackburn family to tell them that they had been matched. 

On September 7, 2017 - Lee and I saw photos of the most beautiful baby boy in all of India!

And on February 15, 2017 - that same baby boy was LEGALLY DECLARED a Blackburn by a judge in India. 

He is no longer an orphan. He is a son. 

OUR son. 

We did not realize we had PASSED court until last Friday when our agency called us. She said that the orphanage had reached out to them and let them know that we actually passed court! 

I will never forget my coordinator saying, “It’s official. He’s your little boy!” 

About the photo(s). I decided to post this photo to tell a small blurb of our amazing journey with Jesus. Before I do, please hear my heart. I fully understand that adoption always begins with brokenness. Family preservation and/or reunification is ALWAYS the goal. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Believe me when I say that our hearts BREAK for the loss that Malachi’s birth parents have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience. 

I just wanted to praise a God that is always working upstream. Sometimes in the seen. Sometimes in the unseen (by us). But nothing is unseen by Him and no detail is missed. He is El Roi (the God who sees). 

He has worked upstream in SO many ways in our lives and adoption. One small glimpse of His power at work is this: 

We began our adoption journey in the Ethiopia program in January 2012. On August 31, 2012 we sent all of our paperwork to Ethiopia and that was called our DTE date (Dossier to Ethiopia). This date was significant because it was the day our agency officially put us on the waiting list for a child. This was also the way our agency identified us. We were “Blackburn family DTE 8/31/12.” All through our journey we celebrated and cried and mourned on August 31 because that was another year gone by without a photo of our boy.

This year, August 31st was a super weird day for me. I felt like we needed to take a photo because we had for 4 years. However, I decided against it because we were no longer in the Ethiopia program. We had switched to India. 

So I didn’t take the photo. 

And quite frankly, I felt like all the other photos we had taken were a wash. 

Little did I know that on August 31st our coordinator had just matched us with our son! And 7 days later we would see his face. 

Yes... on AUGUST 31, 2017 we were MATCHED with our son. Many of you are going “cool coincidence.” 

No. No. No. 

That is a MIRACLE! 

Don’t miss it! 
For alllllll of our paperwork and allllll of his paperwork to line up. For his orphanage to upload him at the exact right moment. For allllll the years before. All of It. 

It’s a miracle. 

And the icing on the cake?! 

Remember that photo our family did not take this year? 

Guess who DID take a photo on August 31, 2017? 

It was the ONLY photo we have ever received of him that had a date on it. The only one. All the other photos do not have dates. If you zoom in the date reads 31/8/2017. They write day, month, year. 

This ALSO happens to be the photo that we had to sign our names across and write “we accept S. as our son” 

Only. God. 

He gets all praise not because He performed a miracle.... but because of WHO HE IS!! 

We can’t wait to tell Malachi about how God has been working upstream in his life, specifically in sending his son, Jesus!! 

When do we travel? 
  1. we were switched to the travel coordinator within our agency (something I had begun to think we would never experience). 
  2. We have to wait on written court orders from the judge (our orphanage expects them in 4 weeks). 
  3. After the written court orders arrive, our orphanage will apply for Malachi’s passport. Once they get his passport.... we get on a plane to go get our boy!!!! 

Blackburn. Party. Of. 6. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Malachi is not the lucky one, we are.

What would parenting a child with a missing arm look like? 

How treatable would his clubfoot be? 

Were we prepared for any other conditions that came with the already known needs of this little boy? 

These questions and the sub questions that followed them laid at the forefront of our minds and conversation all night long. 

We researched. We prayed. We talked. We agreed that we would not review his file unless we were prepared to say yes. 

We “slept” 

The next morning my heart raced as I knew It was decision day. I will never forget standing in our bathroom when Lee walked in and said with complete confidence,

“We need to review his file.” 

My heart stopped. If I could have sobbed right then I would have. The same man who sat beside me on the edge of the bed the night before with a slight look of shock on his face when our coordinator said, “his arm is completely missing” was the same man standing before me after spending time with Jesus saying “this is the way, let’s walk in It.” The Holy Spirit is so very real and able to lead you in all aspects of life! 

We left home, rode downtown to complete our fingerprints and then got in the truck to head to the church for our mission trip. During that 25 minute drive we made one of the biggest phone calls of our entire life. 

We called our coordinator and said, “we want to review this little guy’s file.” 

She began telling us his story and all the info his file contained. 

Adoption can be beautiful, but It is so important for people to understand that adoption always begins with brokenness and loss. Our son’s story is no exception to that and we will never take that lightly. Someone else’s pain has become our joy and that is not lost on us. Not for one second! 

This quote is so true:
“A child born to another woman calls me Mom. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” Jody Landers

Malachi is not the lucky one, we are. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Continuation of “The Call”

Silence filled the air as Lee and I sat on the edge of the bed after we hung up the phone with E. 

The phone call we had been waiting on for almost 6 years had finally happened. Only It was slightly different than we had ever envisioned. 

The clash of emotions that began whirling inside of me was confusing at best. 

Intense FEAR sat beside overwhelming JOY. 
DOUBT held hands with CONFIDENCE. 
WONDER led to CURIOSITY who filled my heart with EXCITEMENT. 
Only to have FEAR come rushing in again like a wave that crushed everything in front of It. 

We smiled sheepish smiles at each other and agreed to talk later once the kids were in bed. 

“Why is he smiling at me like that?” I remember thinking while changing the baby’s diaper. Lee had exchanged one of those smiles that obviously had a million thoughts and emotions racing behind It. 

“What is he thinking?” 
“Does he want to review the file?” 

One of the longest waits was getting everyone to bed (including my mom :-) ) so that we could talk! 

During the 2+ hours between the phone call and us finally having time to talk again, God spoke some things to me. 

  1. He reminded me that “just because something (in this case, the phone call) doesn’t turn out exactly how I expected it to doesn’t mean It isn’t from God. In fact, my expectations are wrong... often.” 
  2. I’m female. I’m full of emotions. When my emotions are high It is difficult for me to make a rational decision. 

I knew that Lee needed to make the decision on whether or not to review this little boy’s file. So during one of our passing moments before bedtime I looked at him and said, “I trust you. I completely trust you. I know that my emotions are way too high and I cannot be trusted to make a good decision, but you can. So we will do whatever you say to do.” 

He confidently replied, “okay.” 

He knew I was being honest. And I knew he would follow Jesus. 

What happened next is such a sweet memory that will be embedded into my mind for a long time. Jesus sweetly invited us to trust Him and to journey with Him. I watched my husband begin walking in a direction that was completely unconventional, yet exactly the path Jesus was calling him to. It was a path that He was calling our family down. A path that led to a very special little boy and I almost cry when I think “we could have missed this.” 

But we didn’t!! 

And OH I am so thankful we did not. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The day we finally got “THE CALL”

The day we got “THE CALL”

We began 2017 updating all of our paperwork for the Ethiopia program and we end 2017 with photos of the most beautiful baby boy in India on our family Christmas card. 

God has done amazing things. Miraculous things. Things that my heart has pondered for months. Things that I still cannot believe actually happened. 

There is so much to share and not enough time to do so. There are limitations for what I am legally able to share (like his beautiful face! We can’t share until he’s legally ours). I also have some guardrails regarding aspects of Malachi’s personal story that I will never share over social media. It’s his story to tell when and if he chooses. Not mine. 

With that being said, I had some time today to pray and reflect. I thought a lot about the day we got THE CALL about Malachi. I wanted to share parts of that story with you guys who have followed our journey for almost 6 years now!! 

September 6, 2017

It was around 6:30 pm. We were scheduled to leave the next morning for Indianapolis on a church plant mission trip. The kids were scurrying around the house. My mom and I were in the kitchen. My phone battery had died earlier so It was on the charger in my bedroom. 

As I stirred potatoes on the stove I heard my phone begin to ring. I remember walking down the hallway thinking, “I wonder who that is because Lee and Mom are both here with me.” As I approached the phone I could tell It was a number that wasn’t saved in my phone and It was out of state. I picked up my phone and almost silenced It. Then I noticed the state was Maryland. I remember thinking, “Maryland is close to Virginia (the state where our agency is located) so maybe I better answer this just in case.” 

Honestly, in that moment I still didn’t think It was THE CALL. One reason was because It was 7:30 eastern time and our agency closed at 5 eastern. Two, because I had saved our agency’s number and set a specific ringtone so I would KNOW when they were calling! 

But I answered. 


“Hi Abby! This is E. (our family coordinator) I am so sorry to call you at this time of night. Things just happen in India at different times than here in the States.” 

At this point... I’ve basically stopped breathing.  Was this the phone call i had waited on for almost SIX years? 
I slowly sat down on the edge of my bed and clung tightly to every word she uttered. I waited for her to say something I had always imagined. Something like “this is your referral call” or “I’m calling to talk to you about a little boy.” 

But she didn’t. 

Instead she said, “I have a scenario that I want to run by you guys. There is a child who borders the special needs you were open to. I would like to tell you what his special needs are, give you the night to talk and pray, and then let me know tomorrow whether you want to review the full file or not.
Is Lee around or somewhere that he can talk?” 

I’m stunned. I didn’t know what to think or feel. 

“Yes, he is here at the house. Can you hold on while I get him?” 

I walk halfway down the hallway and yell Lee’s name. He responds, “yeah?” 

“Can you come back here for a minute? It’s E. on the phone.” 

I knew when he heard her name that he would know. 

He came around the hallway corner with the biggest grin on his face like “oh my goodness!!” 
I quickly said, “its not exactly a referral. She wants to go over some special needs with us tonight.” 

We both sat down on the side of the bed. We placed E. on speaker phone. She explained to Lee what she had told me already. This child had special needs that we were open to but because there was more than one need she wanted to discuss It with us before having us  review his file. 

A million emotions flooded us when we hung up the phone. Who was this child? Was he our long awaited, son? 
At this point we had no info other than his specific needs. No photos. No background. 

But we had Jesus. 

It was immediately understood between the two of us that we were about to enter into a night long conversation with God! 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

But because You say so...

Somewhere along the way I quit blogging. I quit talking. I just sort of retreated to a place of solitude when it came to our adoption journey. 

 And I am still here. 

 But friends do not mistake our silence. We are still very much in this fight for our son in Ethiopia. In fact, since March 1st we have waged war for our son through constant prayer! 

 And war we have entered into.

 Over the past few months we have updated ALL of our paperwork. We are once again eligible to be matched with a child. 
 And now comes the question "when?" 
 We do not have an answer for that. It could be next week. Next month. Next year. 

 I received an email from our adoption coordinator on Friday. The email was informative but not necessarily encouraging. We are close to the top of the list of families waiting to be matched within our agency. However, Ethiopian adoptions are still very, very hard and very, very unpredictable.

 I left work Friday extremely upset. I couldn't hold the tears back. I am so tired. On Friday I had absolutely no fight left in me. 

 And I was angry. Very. Very. Angry. 

 The temptation to switch programs or routes for adoption overwhelmed my soul. I know that God often changes the course of adoption plans and I am not ruling that out. He just has not given us the green light to do so yet. 

 Could we adopt faster from China or India or somewhere else? ABSOLUTELY. 

 But for us this journey has never been about a child. It has always been about being obedient to what Jesus told us to do. 

 But on Friday... if I am being completely transparent... I was tired of being obedient. I was tired of the whole thing. 

 God shepherds my heart so perfectly. I knew that in the days to come He would speak and I was preparing my heart to  listen. 

 On Saturday I opened the Word. 


And I had a "But because you say so" day. I'm still tired. My heart is so very tender towards our adoption. But because he says so I will climb back into the boat and go back out. I do not want to miss an opportunity to SEE Jesus. For the day will come when I return to the shore and am no longer empty handed.

Walking back into work Saturday morning I received our daily scripture from our mission team. 

It read: 
If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. 
Psalm 37:23-24

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

4 Years DTE

Four years ago today was one of the most exciting days in our adoption journey. We had completed all of the necessary paperwork and it was finally shipped off to Ethiopia! We were officially placed on our agency's waiting list.

4 long years have passed since that day

Quite frankly, I'm not sure whether today is a day of celebration or a day of mourning :-)

I have so much to say about what God has been teaching us and why we have chosen to stay the course on this crazy ride to Ethiopia (versus switching to another program which would be faster) but I may have to save all of that for another post.

For now... My hope has been renewed. My hope that this adoption may eventually actually happen :-)
Honestly, my heart is scared to get hopeful because I've had much heartache during this journey. However, my hope is in God and not in an organization. I am learning to trust that He is faithful.

In July, our agency issued 3 infant referrals. In August they have issued 5 referrals (not sure of the ages). Those numbers have been unheard of in the past few years! Ethiopia is divided into regions and while many of the regions have completely closed their doors to adoption... One region recently RE-OPENED their doors and our agency has a new orphanage partnership there! This is extremely exciting!

Think of our waiting list as a line. You are placed in order based on your DTE date. Our DTE date is 8/31/12.
The last infant referral I saw the family had a DTE of March 2012 (so that's a family just 5 months ahead of us in line).
And then on the toddler list... We actually recently got skipped for a referral!! A family whose DTE date was December of 2012 got a 2 year old boy just a few weeks ago. I know it sounds crazy but it actually excited me that we got skipped. It means we had a chance at a referral if we weren't on hold for baby girl.

So.... I have new energy to get busy updating all of our paperwork!! We can officially come off hold once Tate is 6 months old (so December 22). Once she is 6 months and all of our paperwork is up to date... We are officially eligible to receive a referral! We are pretty close to the top of the list. We are unofficially #24 on the infant list and #15 on the toddler list. But like I said, many of the people ahead of us are on hold or don't have their paperwork up to date for some reason! So we are actually higher on the list than those numbers!!

I know I sound excited. I kinda am. But I'm also realistic. While it could be this spring finally seeing his face... International adoption is very unpredictable and it could be much much longer.

Pray for our hearts!

For today, we are thankful God has loved us enough to take us on this journey which has ultimately resulted in us getting to know HIM more... Trust Him more... Love Him more and be more like Him. Isn't that always the goal? Even if it's painful.

Happy 4 years DTE!! We are coming for ya Malachi!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Very Overdue Blog Post!!

Hey Guys!
The last time I blogged was in October!! Geez!!
So, PROJECT 30 in October was simply AMAZING!! We had so many fundraisers (thanks to our "village") and we ended up raising......
10 thousand dollars!!
thank you. thank you. thank you.
We could have never done that without you guys!!
We are considering ourselves "fully funded." Yes, there may be surprise expenses that come up, but we feel confident that we are very close to the total amount that we need to bring this baby boy HOME!! We do have lots of left over shirts that we will sell in the next few weeks so keep an eye out for those!!
Here are a few photos from that week.
But these are only a few photos I had on my phone. There were so many other amazing fundraisers!!
My husband's gun raffle turned out great! He raised around 4K just on the raffle! Thank you to everyone who helped and bought tickets.

Megan Manuel did an awesome bake sale! She even delivered the goodies!

We had a Noonday party (pictured above). We also had a Trades of Hope party but I don't have any photos on my phone.

Proceeds from a Brittany's antique booth!

Crossfit Clinton hosted a Saturday WOD!

Outdoor Movie Night at the Gates' house!!


Another photo from the Crossfit WOD!

I could spend the rest of the blog talking about how amazing it was to see our village come together! Amazing things happen when people join together around a common cause!
So why am I just now updating on a fundraiser that happened in October??
On October 24th I wasn't feeling "normal." I decided to take a pregnancy test "just to rule it out."
To my complete and utter shock... it was POSITIVE!!
Seriously, I paced around the house sweating! Can I reiterate the word "SHOCKED??"
Pregnancy was the farthest thing from mine and Lee's minds. God had different plans!
One week later... BAM.
Nausea. Fatigue. The fullness of the first trimester hit me!
I am so thankful for Lee because there were days that I just laid on the couch and let the boys run wild. It was a rough 3 months!
I'm feeling better now!
It's a GIRL!!
We are thrilled!
 So how does this effect our adoption?
We filled out all of the necessary paperwork to remain in the program during pregnancy. We are officially "on hold" with our agency until baby girl turns 6 months old.
After baby girl is born we will update our home study as a family of 5. When she is 6 months old we will come "off hold" with our agency and be eligible for a referral (so around December 2016).
While "on hold" we still continue to move up the waiting list!
Which means that by the time we finally come off hold, we should be very close (hopefully) to the top of the list! We are praying for a referral in 2017!!!
We are currently #29 for an infant and #16 for a toddler!
Lots of changes coming up in the Blackburn household!
Thank you so much for journeying with us!