Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cava's Owl

Cava is thrilled that an owl has taken up residence in our backyard. He is giddy with excitement every time he hears it hoot. I'll look out our back window and see him just standing there in the yard, gazing up into the tree, and I don't even have to wonder why. Cava is fascinated by birds, especially big ones. He loves all birds of prey: hawks, eagles, falcons (particularly the Peregrine Falcon) and owls. He will sit and watch any nature documentary that is about birds. (On Netflix alone, we've watched Wings of Life, The Life of Birds, The Crimson Wing, and are now in the BBC's documentary Life - we started with the episode on birds, of course!). 

He loved the hawks and eagles that were at Dollywood. One of his favorite parts of any of our trip to the Magic Kingdom was at Animal Kingdom when we walked through a bird sanctuary.  

He will spend hours pouring over bird books and loves checking them out from the library. For his birthday, he wants a nice pair of binoculars so he can really bird watch.

The boy even dreams about falconry and one day wants to have a Peregrine Falcon of his own.

On the way to school one morning, he was rattling off facts he'd learned about owls and, when he stopped to catch his breath, I said, "Keep this up and you'll grow up to be an ornithologist."

"Yeah," he beamed.

"Do you know what that is?"


"That's someone who studies birds."

"Oh yeah! That's me all right!"

I love seeing his enthusiasm for bird watching and will heartily encourage him to continue. From the time he first arrived here in the States, he has been very excited whenever he sees a bird wherever we are. I asked him if he was this way back in Ukraine. "No," he said.

"Why not?"

He shrugged, "I don't know. Just didn't notice them there."

I'm glad he does now because he makes me more aware of them. Sometimes we sit outside together and try to identify birds we see in our yard with those in his bird identification book. We also enjoy nature walks to try and spot different ones.

The only thing I'm disappointed by is that the owl hasn't brought any letter from Hogwarts yet. 

For those who are wondering, we named the owl Archimedes but call him "Archie."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


It never ceased to amaze me the questions we got when we we going through the adoption process and even after we adopted Cava.  People asked questions that they would never dare ask someone having a biological child. And, having talked to a great many other people who've adopted, they have experienced this, too, so we're not alone. Some of the people who were must skeptical of our adoption came around to seeing why God called us to do this amazing act called adoption.

So, when we once again found ourselves at that crossroads of will we or won't we act on what we truly believe God's call, we decided to trust Him and the plan He has for our family because we saw how beautifully He has worked before through our family and how the adoption of a child can have a ripple effect on others, especially when they, too, decide to adopt. This time, we thought we would not have to battle the same resistance that we did the first time, but we were wrong.

No sooner have we told people that we were going to host a young girl from Ukraine that we had met while we were there, then they immediately ask, "Are you going to adopt her?"

We answer truthfully that we don't know. We don't even know if she is adoptable.

This is when the question has constantly arisen, "Then why would you do it?"

I am taken aback by this.

More than one stressed how hard it will be to say goodbye to this girl again, particularly once we become even more attached to her than we did in the brief time we were there in the boarding school where she lives.

My response is this:

Yes, it will hurt. But God never said anything would be easy. Am I to be guided by my fear of being hurt or out of my obedience to God's call for our family?

I do not believe in accidents or chance. I believe God has brought this girl back into our life for a reason. I don't know the whole reason, but I trust Him and that is enough for now.

We do know that, for the short period of time we will host her, we will have an opportunity to not only show our love, the love of a family to her, but, more importantly, the love of God to her. We have a chance to let her know that she may not feel like she matters or that she's important, but that she is. In just over two years since we last saw her, I have thought of her every day and prayed for her. Our family has prayed for her. She matters to us. She is not forgotten.

When I saw her face in that hosting photo, I saw an answer to two years of prayers.

She was not a nameless orphan to me. She was a beautiful child who God brought into the lives of my family again. And to think it all started with me opening a door for her. A simple act and yet one that had profound impact on her. Since it was a glass door, I saw her still standing there after I closed it. She look confused and unsure of what happened. Only later did I realize that this may have been the first time someone saw her. Really saw HER and had extended kindness to her.

After that, she would sit outside our room and sew. She always smiled at me, a shy smile. I drew pictures for her. She drew pictures for me (and I still have them). One drawing was a simple, child's drawing of a heart and she communicated through gestures that it was her heart for me. On another day, I was coming down the stairs of the building as she was coming in. She came up to me, thrust out her hand for me to shake it. I shook my head and opened my arms. This girl immediately came in and hugged me tight as I hugged her.

When we left the boarding school, as other kids we met were smiling and telling us good-bye, I noticed her in the back, crying because she realized we weren't adopting her.  Our hearts broke. During the two years, those tears have stayed with me. I asked God repeatedly why He would even put her in my life if that was the end of it. God knew. That was not the end.

Am I afraid of the hurt I will feel when I put her back on the plane to return to Ukraine after we host her? YES! But this will not be the same hurt I felt when I left her back in Ukraine, the pain of feeling like I had somehow abandoned her (though I hadn't and would have readily adopted her if I could).

There is a lot of uncertainty in hosting her. We don't know if God has more planned than the month or so she's here, but we will take the time we do have with her and show her love, show her that she is of great value and worth. We will let her know that she matters to us.

We are just taking the time with her as just that. This is what God is offering us now. I am grateful and overwhelmed that He is. He has heard my prayers over this young girl. Those prayers did matter. This girl does matter. That is why we are hosting.

Monday, April 27, 2015

His Provisions

It is hard to believe that just a week ago God provided another opportunity for us to say, "Yes," to. We did and agreed to host a girl we met in Ukraine two years ago when we adopted Cava. Once we committed to this, we then had to pray that God would make a way, as it is going to cost us $3,500 just to get her over to the States. We had just used our tax refund to pay back on the loan we took out to adopt Cava. Over Spring Break, we had gone on a a trip. If we had known this was going to happen, we could have planned differently, but God clearly wanted us at a place where we could not do it on our own but would need His help.

The day after we agreed to host "T," I found myself praying, "Okay God, we believe this is truly your will but for this to happen you are going to have to provide for us because we just don't have the money right now." I poured my heart out to God and trusted on Matthew 7:7-8: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

It was hardly thirty minutes after I finished praying that one of my closest friends called me from Portland, Oregon where it would have been not long after 6 am. He asked about our family and I told him exactly where we were and to pray for us, especially in regards to the financial obstacles we faced.  To my surprise, he told me he had just gotten his tax refund back and was going to mail us a check for $1,000.  I was stunned and found myself in tears. When I told him that I had not shared all of that to get money out of him, he said, "I know. But I want to be a part of this. Ever since you guys stepped out in faith to adopt Cava, your family has been teaching me that when God puts an opportunity before you to say, "Yes."

I was truly overwhelmed.

By the end of that day, God had used others to provide the rest of the $1,400 we need to make our first payment. This proved to Danelle and I both that this really was God's will and that we were being obedient to His call for the life of our family. We are thankful and grateful to those of you who donated.

Of course, me being me, I continued to check our Paypal account every day and, when, after the initial $1,400, no more donations came in, I began to worry. As I have said before, I would have made an awesome Israelite. God performs a miracle and I, immediately, want another one. Perhaps this is his way of saying, "I will provide when it is needed. Trust me."  I am being reminded again that it is all about trust.

Just as we did when we were trying to raise funds to adopt Cava, we are again going to be having a yard sale in the next couple of weeks and trying to find other ways to raise the rest of the funds needed. We have already begun gathering things we can sell. Cava is so excited he has contributed some of his toys and puzzles.

Please pray for us as we continue our journey.  If God so leads you, please donate to our fund using the secure PayPal donate button. We will use the fundraising thermometer to let you know how close we are to our goal.

Our family knows that God will make a way, He will provide, and that He is faithful.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cava's First Dance

This morning, before school, he strutted around and told me, "I'm gonna' dance like there's nobody watchin'!" He also let me know that he was going to request his favorite song "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift. One of the reasons he loves this song so much is because he identifies with the message. Feeling like an outsider and that he often doesn't fit in, he connects to lyrics. In class, when the schoolwork is getting too difficult for him, he's becoming frustrated, and he is struggling to keep it together, he uses this song to sing in his head so that instead of bursting out in defeat, he just shakes it off.

Since the school dance is a "dance with a loved one," Danelle got to go with him. I must admit, I was a tad bit jealous, as I have always wanted to have a daughter to go to a "daddy / daughter" dance. I also would've loved to have gone just so I could see Cava break out his moves because this boy has got some. Adam Levine should have sung "I've got the moves like Cava" instead of like Jagger.

As always, he was very obliging when I asked him to let me take photos of him before he left, even though he was bouncing-off-the-walls excited about going to his first ever school dance.  

He danced with his Mom.

He danced with his friends.

He danced in a conga line.

And they played his request - Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." So Cava said he had one "awesome" time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blackwell's Breaking News!

For anyone who's followed our blog and knows our adoption story, a little over two years ago we adopted Cava. When we went to meet him for the first time, we had to stay in his boarding school and, while there, got to know some of the children.  There was one little girl, "T," in particular that we got attached to and even inquired about adopting. We were told that we couldn't and left with broken hearts.

In the time that has passed since, I have prayed for her every day. She was constantly in my thoughts and my heart. I wondered what was going on in her life. Was she still in that boarding school? Was she adopted? There were so many unanswered questions.

Then, yesterday morning, I got on Facebook and the first thing I see is a photo of "T." She was available for hosting this summer. I felt like I had been broadsided by a truck. Immediately I called Danelle and she came to see what I wanted. I saw her expression change as soon as she saw the photo. "You know we can't," were the first words out of her mouth. I knew she was right. We used up all of our savings adopting Cava. The tax money we just got back from our federal taxes went to paying off the loan we got to adopt him.

I was heartbroken.

All day long I prayed and wondered why God would bring her back into my life if I couldn't host her. Then I realized that, even if she was not going to be hosted by our family, this was an answer to my prayer because it meant that she would be hosted and, maybe, adopted. This was a "No," to me, but a "Yes," to someone else's prayers. It was bittersweet.

I wrestled with this all day long. I prayed and sought God and had to say, "Your will be done."

Later that afternoon, when I spoke to Danelle, she stunned me with, "If we are going to do this, then it will have to be all God's will." I knew what she meant.

So I called the hosting program to find out if "T" was even available.

If they told me that a family was already going to host her then I knew what my prayer was to be: to pray for that family, pray for "T," and that, if she was available for adoption, that they would adopt her so that she could be in a loving home. If she was available, then my prayer was that we would trust God that He would be faithful as we hosted her.

The woman I spoke to informed me that she had been put on "hold" by a family who was going to host her, but they had backed out.

An open door.

 Of course I said, "YES!"

This is another huge step in trusting God.

He will have to make a way for us.

Finances alone are a huge obstacle. Just getting "T" over here will cost us $3,500.00 that we don't have.

Please join us in prayer.

We know God can do this. As I read in my Bible study early this morning, " I prayed to the Lord, saying: 'Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you."

If you feel led to donate so that we can host this girl who has never been hosted, never been out of Ukraine, so that she can know that not only do we love her, but, more importantly, that God loves her, you can donate using the Donate Button which takes you to a secure Pay Pal site.

This has been a roller-coaster last two days. Once again, we find God putting something before us and we had to make a choice to say, "Yes."

I cannot help but marvel again at the amazing way that God works in our lives.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Our Trip To Tennessee

With the coming of Spring, there is the return of having to spring forward with our clocks, the return of pollen, and, the only one I enjoy, Spring Break for the kids from school. This year we decided to go to Tennessee to visit my wife's Aunt Mickie and Uncle Doug. It's a little over three hours to drive from our house to theirs, but we get to go past one of my favorite places (Asheville) and through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive up was overcast and foggy, so nobody really got to enjoy the spectacular views. Of course, even if it had have been clear, they would have had to pry their eyes from their technology first to do so. Cava was very excited when we drove through a tunnel. Despite the fog and the rain, it was a fairly pleasant trip up there.

On our first full day in Knoxville, it would not be a Blackwell trip if we didn't go to a science museum, so we went to the American Museum of Science and Energy. Both boys readily volunteered for being in a presentation that involved a Van de Graaff Generator. Cava was a little more wary of touching it . . .

Benjamin, on the other hand, was thrilled to get to touch one again.

After the presentation, it was off to exploring the rest of the museum. 

Whether it was working with the robotic arms . . .

Or learning about different types of energy, including nuclear power.

Including Benjamin pretending to be Major Kong at the end of Dr. Strangelove . . .

Cava loved learning about atoms, especially when I explained that the nucleus is like the parent and the electrons orbiting the nucleus are like the children running round the parent trying to get his or her attention.

Everyone enjoyed the museum, but the boys were ready to get rid of some energy at a nearby park.

We had researched ahead of time and found out that if you went to Dollywood after 3 pm, you could return on the same ticket for free the next day. So we decided to do this on Wednesday afternoon. 

Since we were there during the International Festival, we searched around the park among all the flags trying to find one for Ukraine, but were unable to locate it. Cava did find Ukraine on a map.

And when we rode the bumper cars, Cava picked a blue and yellow one since it was the colors of the Ukrainian flag. As excited as he was to find one that color, he delightedly cackled with glee every time he rammed his bumper car into the one with Mommy and Benjamin.

As we rode the old 192 train, Cava told me all about how he rode a train from the place where the orphanage he had been in to the boarding school where we had met him. 

Day two started off with roller coasters! First Thunderhead, a wooden coaster with a 100 foot drop. As we waited in the line, we were discussing how "crazy" this day was going to be and Cava topped us all with, "It's going to be C-A-V-A crazy!"

Then it was on to the Mystery Mine.  A line that was supposed to take us only 45 minutes, ended up taking over an hour and twenty-five because, just as we were about to get on a car, they decided to add another car to the track. Cava didn't take the wait too well and I had to calm his anger and tears. Once we finally did get on the coaster, it was two indoor 95 degree vertical hills with an 85 foot drop and a burst of flame. Of course Cava had to sit in the front seat. 

After that, we had some more problems with rides and tempers as we got in line for Smoky Mountain River Rampage, only to have the ride break down before we got on it. Then it happened again with Blazin' Fury. By this time, both boys were frustrated and ready to call it quits. Having just paid over $200 for us to come, Danelle and I were not about to leave. 

Taking a break from rides, we went to eat lunch. As we did, our family met Lilian the Chicken Lady. She came to our table, serenaded us on banjo. Cava thought it was really funny when Lilian paid attention to Benjamin.

But he didn't think so once the tiny rubber chicken was dancing on his head.

After lunch, we rode FireChaser Express, got soaked on Daredevil Falls, rushed down the Mountain Sidewinder, and checked out the eagle sanctuary, watched a show with Bald Eagles and hawks, ate funnel cake, as well as went through the Dolly Parton Museum called Chasing Rainbows. Benjamin knew the song "Jolene," but Cava had no clue who Dolly Parton was. He was excited to see that she had been on Alvin and the Chipmunks. Needless to say, we need to expose that boy to some "9 to 5" and "Here You Come Again." Not sure if he's ready to hear Danelle and I duet to "Islands in the Stream." Or, perhaps, "Coat of Many Colors" . . . 

The boys even wanted to pose in front of a car they said reminded them of the one on The Andy Griffith Show.

In the end, both boys agreed that they had enjoyed themselves overall and had a pretty good day. Benjamin's favorite was the explosive FireChaser Express coaster. Cava being Cava, said his favorite was some ducks we saw. Danelle and I agreed that our next trip will contain less manufactured moments that one gets at amusement parks and more where we can truly spend time with each other and not going from one line to the next to ride something.  

Still, we loved getting to see Uncle Doug and Aunt Mickie. Cava said his favorite part of the whole trip was watching birds from their back deck. They gave him a book on different birds and we just need to get him some good binoculars and we might just have a true bird watcher on our hands.