Saturday, June 10, 2017

forever home

Faith Ana Blackmon
December 19, 2007 -  June 5, 2017

A baby girl was born in Kazanlak, Bulgaria on December 19, 2007. We do not know this special child’s natural parents or any of her family in Bulgaria. We do not know the circumstances of how she came to the Home for Medical and Social Care for Children Orphanage in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. We do know that her name was Fidana Zeynep Alieva and that she had been in this orphanage for six years. We also know that she had been born with a defect known as spina bifida and had some surgery as a small child. We know that this child’s Heavenly Father had a plan for her life which included Will and Melanie Blackmon and their family in Opelika, Alabama. 
Fidana became Faith Ana Blackmon and arrived with Melanie at the Blackmon home on June 5, 2014. She immediately knew Will as “Dada” and was quickly laughing at the antics of the Blackmon boys, Web, Palmer, Hank, and Barrett. She also had two sisters, Sophi, who had been previously adopted from Bulgaria, and Evie, as well as a baby brother, Haddon. So Faith Ana, at age 6, joined a large, loving family in a totally different place. She may not have realized that she had traveled halfway around the world, but she knew that she was in a place where she was dearly loved. Of course, in a child’s mind, Faith Ana may have simply thought she had moved to a different orphanage, which is somewhat true, as we are all orphans needing to be rescued and saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Faith Ana continuously heard the name of Jesus in her three years with Will and Melanie. Jesus always said to bring the children to Him. We know that when Faith Ana died on June 5, 2017, her spirit was instantly with Jesus, and she is in His loving arms. While we may not fully understand how it takes place, we also know that in the “twinkling of an eye” Faith Ana will have a new body, a special and fresh creation of God. Her earthly broken little body which was paralyzed below the waist will be strong, beautiful, and glorified. She will stand, walk, run, jump, play, and praise our Lord for all eternity.
Despite her challenges, Faith Ana wanted to learn new things, and she did her best at adjusting to life with the Blackmon Bunch, which grew with the additions of Georgi and Camp. She knew all of her brothers, sisters, and other family members and interacted with each of them. There was mutual entertainment and lots of laughter. Also, there were struggles, but Faith Ana persevered through her several medical issues with an easy-going personality. There were victories along the way. She learned to dress herself, and, using her wheelchair, she was able to do other tasks. She became amazing at putting together 300 piece puzzles. Her smile and warm welcome were a joy for everyone. 
Our hopes and plans for our children may not always be realized. Will and Melanie had those for Faith Ana, but we recognize that God’s ways are above our ways. We have trust and confidence in God’s sovereignty, and we know His love for us and Faith Ana. She is now secure in His presence with no pain, no uncertainty, and no more struggles. Will and Melanie are so thankful to God for giving them the privilege of three years to the day of being Faith Ana’s parents. 
Will and Melanie are also grateful to their family, friends, neighbors, prayer warriors, and encouragers who stood with them during the adoption process, health issues, hard days, and this time of deep loss and hurting. They are forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who did their best to help Faith Ana and them with the difficult issues and decisions. They especially want to thank Dr. Sara Smith T for her steadfast and loving support and encouragement and the gift of her time. 
Faith Ana will be greatly missed by her parents, Will and Melanie Blackmon, her brothers, Web, Palmer, Hank, Barrett, Haddon, and Camp, her sisters, Sophi, Evie, and Georgi, her grandparents, Bill and Judy Blackmon, Kay Ingram, and Stan and Sophia Martin, her great-grandparents, Bill and Patty Martin, her uncle and aunt, Allen and Tiffany Martin, her cousins, Allen, Langston, Ellie, and Mary Chapman Martin, her uncle and aunt, Collin and Caroline Bradley, her uncle and aunt, Rob and Laura Yeargain, her cousins, Brett (Kaitlyn) Dudley, Kaitlyn Dudley, and Millie Dudley, and her great-uncle and great-aunt, Joel and Jan Martin.
There will be a graveside service on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 2:00 P.M. at Garden Hills Cemetery in Opelika, Alabama. Jeffcoat-Trant is handling the arrangements, and Rev. Mike King will officiate.  In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to be made to First Baptist Church of Opelika, Alabama and designated for the Faith Ana Memorial Fund to help children through adoption and foster care, to care for their families, and to bless their caretakers.

Home - June 5, 2014

Forever Home - June 5, 2017

So, with confidence and hope in this message,
strengthen those with feeble hands,
shore up the weak-kneed and weary.
Tell those who worry, the anxious, and fearful,
"Take strength; have courage! There's nothing to fear..."

Then, such healing, such repair:

the eyes of the blind will be opened;
the ears of the deaf will be clear.

The lame will leap like deer excited;
they will run and jump tirelessly and gracefully.

The stutterer, the stammerer, and the tongue of the mute 
will sing out loud and clear in joyful song...

An aura of joy never-ending will attend them;
they will clasp gladness and joy to their hearts,
while sadness and despair evaporate into thin air.

Isaiah 35:3-7,10


*A special thank you to my sweet dad who wrote Faith Ana's beautiful obituary.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

faith's {de}feat . . . continued

The fall of 2016 will go down as one of the most difficult and demanding seasons that I've ever walked through. The rough patch with Sophi that I eluded to way back in July only intensified throughout the summer. By the time we reached fall, we were in a desperate place. And while I know I have said those words before, those times pale in comparison with the situation we found ourselves in this past September and October. For Sophi's privacy, I'm going to leave most of the details out. You can take me at my word and know that it was an extremely difficult and dark time. 

Not surprisingly, this lined up with the end of my second trimester and beginning of my third, a time when I generally struggle emotionally and physically during my pregnancies. 

Bring victory in defeat and hope in hopelessness. 
Psalm 4:1

We sought counsel and were very much on our knees, crying out to the Lord for mercy, wisdom, and direction. But even in the midst of dealing with intense disappointment, difficult decisions, and what ultimately felt like defeat, the Lord was so good.

We were surrounded by friends who prayed for us and supported us in so many ways. We were also incredibly blessed by our kind, patient, and godly doctors who know our family and our story well and willingly walked alongside us during these days. 

One of the most incredible blessings during this time was my parents' willingness to keep Sophi, Faith Ana, and Georgi not just once, but twice so that we could have a little bit of respite at the beach. Although I was very hesitant to leave Sophi since she was in such a bad spot, I am so thankful that I was surrounded by people who encouraged me to go. I was able to sleep, play, love on my other kids, and catch my breath at one of my very favorite places. This was such a gift and just what my soul needed.

The Lord was so gentle and kind during these days at the beach. He spoke straight into my hurting and overwhelmed heart, words full of mercy and truth that I desperately needed to hear:

I've got the big things. 
I've got the little things. 
And, yes, even the broken things. Especially the broken things.
I've got all these things, holding them carefully in the very palms of My hands.
Even more, I'm using all these things to bring about your greatest good {and Sophi's and each of your children's} as well as My greatest glory.

I've always loved sand dollars, so it was extra special that the Lord gave me these tiny treasures as reminders of His faithfulness. 

I had a chance to read, and I inhaled this book by Christine Cain. It was such a powerful read. I also got a new Bible, this translation that I have loved. Other books I gobbled up were this one by Elisabeth Elliot along with this one by Russell Kelfer. {I highly recommend all of these if you're in the midst of your own difficult days.} They were very much food for my soul.

Be struck with wonder...
He's not put off by the suffering of the suffering one;
He doesn't pretend He hasn't seen him;
when he pleaded for help, He listened...

Those who are suffering will eat and be nourished...

Our children will serve Him;
future generations will
of how the Lord rescued us.
They will tell the generations to come,
of what He has done.

Psalm 22:23-24,26,30-31

There's a chapter of this story that I'm saving for another day, but what I do want to say today is that what the Enemy intended for my harm and my defeat and dare I say, my death, were the very things the Lord has used {and is using} to bring about a work of healing in my own heart, mind, and body. This particular season was very much a collision for me. Dealing with Sophi's issues, the challenges of pregnancy, and my own struggles with eating and exercise brought me to my knees in a place of humble desperation, finally willing to seek the help and support I needed. What a gracious gift!

The sorrows, that to us seem so perplexing, are mercies kindly sent.
Streams in the Desert

As the fall turned into winter, Sophi began having more and more stable days and restful nights. This was such a huge mercy and answer to many prayers. There was a welcoming normalcy to our family life and even some wonderfully calm and uneventful days.

We celebrated this big girl's 9th birthday. 

(More updates on Faith Ana soon as we have an upcoming trip to Children's Hospital and their spina bifida clinic scheduled for later this spring.)

I finished the last few months of my pregnancy healthy and growing strong, and we welcomed another sweet little boy into our family.

Meet Campbell Elliot.

We are calling him Camp, and everyone is pretty smitten with this little guy. We brought him home from the hospital on Georgi's first birthday!!! 

Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.
Streams in the Desert

Christmas {which is two days after Georgi's birthday} was wild and very much a whirlwind. We kept the day simple for our two big girls who do much better with routine and consistency, but the rest of the crew celebrated big time and in typical Blackmon fashion - loud and lively!

Every year when I watch their daddy pick out special gifts for each of the kids, it's such a sweet reminder of our heavenly Father's kind and generous heart for us, His children. They both give the best gifts! This Christmas will be remembered as the year for bikes, boats, and babies! 

Since Christmas, the kids have clocked in hundreds of hours with their boats and their bikes thanks to a warm and mild winter, something I am especially grateful for. 

I've clocked in quite a few hours with my sweet gifts too, and even though the days start early, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

In the morning, O Eternal One, listen for my voice; in the day's first light, I will offer my prayer to You and watch expectantly for Your answer.

You, O Eternal, are the One who lays
in the laps of the right-hearted.

Your blessings surround them like a shield.

Psalm 5:3,12

We celebrated two more birthday boys. Barrett turned 6 the end of December, and Haddon turned 3 the end of January. It makes me smile when I think about being the momma to half a dozen boys!

The big boys took a couple of camping and fishing adventures during February and March, and I'm pretty sure they would all agree that this fish was the highlight of 2017 so far.

The rest of us have held down the fort here at home, making for some very full days {and full arms}!

For the longest time our big wall calendar stayed stuck on those months that were so difficult. They reminded me of all the doctors appointments Sophi and I both had. All the hard conversations. All the phone calls and conference calls with our social worker who has been helping us move forward as we seek the best solution for Sophi. That 2016 calendar reminded me of all the tough days that we made it through...

Did you hear that, my friends? 

We made it through. Fall turned into winter.

We made it through. Winter turned into spring.

But I will keep hope alive, and my praise to You will grow exponentially. I will bear witness to Your merciful acts; throughout the day I will speak of all the ways You deliver, although, I admit, I do not know the entirety of either... 

You have made me see hard times; I've experienced many miserable days, but You will restore me again. You will raise me up from the deep pit...

I will praise You...
because You have been faithful
O my God.
Psalm 71:14-15,20,22

We made it through. We are all here today, alive and healthy. And that's no small miracle.

Even though we are still in a very uncertain place with Sophi {and still have many difficult days}, the darkness has lifted. The helpless, hopeless feeling that weighed so heavy on my heart has been transformed into a patient and hopeful expectation of all the Lord has in store for Sophi and for our entire family. There really can be hope in the midst of hopelessness.

Wiping clean my 2016 calendar was actually a little bittersweet. In the middle of the roughest stretch I've ever walked through, there were so many special days, sweet memories, and gracious mercies that I don't want to forget. 

It's easy to be thankful for the joyful days, but more and more I'm learning to be thankful for all the days. We are learning this together as a family, and I pray that this is one of many truths learned during this season that lodge deep into the hearts and minds of each of my children. 

I pray for you,
that all your misgivings will be melted to thanksgivings.
Remember that the shadow a thing casts often far exceeds the size of the thing itself (especially if the light be low on the horizon) and though some future fear may strut brave darkness as you approach, the thing itself will be but a speck when seen from beyond. Oh that He would restore us often with that 'aspect from beyond,' to remember that He dealt with us as with sons.
Jim Elliot

Although we have done our best to shield our little ones from much of what has been going on with Sophi, we have had numerous conversations with our older boys, and they are well aware of her struggles. They understand a bit of the difficult decisions we are having to make as we consider what's best for Sophi. 

These precious children of mine have seen their momma crying many tears, but they have also seen their momma crying out to the Lord. They have witnessed me at my weakest, and in that place of weakness, they have witnessed first hand how the Lord is growing their momma strong. They have watched me wrestle with my own demons, and while they have seen plenty of defeats, they've seen victories and miracles right before their very own eyes. These beautiful eyes might not understand everything that's been going on here, but do you know what? I'm no longer ashamed of the defeats. I'm no longer afraid of what they've seen or anxious about all they know and understand. My confident hope and prayer is that every single bit of this story will help them understand more and more the faithfulness and steadfast, unconditional love of the Father they are learning to trust. 

When we are unfaithful, His faithfulness never wavers. 

When we fail, His love doesn't change. 

And even when we hang our heads in utter defeat, His heart for us, His children, is merciful and kind. 

He can redeem.

Our defeats don't have to define us.

Our failures don't have to follow us.

And for all of our mistakes and messes, there's mercy. I want my kids to know there's always, always mercy.

Let them see what the Lord has done...
how He has had mercy on you.
Mark 5:19

When I was their age, I knew all of this in theory. But only in theory. It was not until I was much older, that I began to fully grasp God's grace and what it truly means. I'm still learning, and I'm thankful my kids are learning these truths right alongside with me.

He doesn't give up, even when we do.

He doesn't run out, even when we do.

He doesn't wear out, even when we are completely worn out, worn down, and feel utterly defeated.

Defeat can become the classroom where we most clearly see our Father's huge heart for us. This is how we can experience victory even in the midst of defeat.

Our story has not unfolded the way I thought it would, and this particular chapter with Sophi is one I never saw coming. It's hard and sad, and I struggle to find words to express my heart for this precious child and the difficult situation we have found ourselves in. It's a chapter covered in tears, sweat, blood, and plenty of other stinky bodily fluids that will remain unmentioned. But more than that, it's a chapter covered in grace and mercy, and because of this, I will keep telling it. I don't know what the next chapter holds for Sophi and for our family, but I know Who holds it, and I take great comfort in knowing He's got it covered.

He said to me,
"My grace is enough to cover and sustain you.
My power is made perfect in weakness."

So, ask me about my thorn,
inquire about my weakness,
and I will gladly go on and on...

because when I am at my weakest,
He makes me strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I don't always have a word or a verse for the new year, but this year, 2017, the Lord gave me not just one but two. I'm sharing them here in hopes they encourage you just as they have me. 

Wherever you are, be all there.
Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.
Jim Elliot

 Look here, what's done is done and gone.
The now is new,
and there's hope in the not-yet...
So make up a song like none other.
Sing a new song to the Eternal.
And let His praise echo clear across the earth.
Isaiah 42:9-10

Praise and glory to God
for whom nothing is too hard.
Elisabeth Elliot