Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Friends and Family

For those of you who did not receive our Christmas card, here is a summary of 2011 for our family.  If you did not receive a card, I likely do not have your address or was unsure if you have moved or not, so I didn't send one.  You can inbox me your address and I will be happy to send one to you.

I am aware of all the typing errors and redundant words.   However, I wrote this letter in about 20 minutes as it needed to go out in the mail before the madness began and we traveled for the holidays.  In my defense, Tim and Katie (may or may not have) read this letter before I mailed it and they both said it "looked good." My apologies. By the way, we had these portraits taken by a good friend (thank you, Michelle Barnett) in Pinehurst back in November. 

December 2011
Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                                            

What an exciting year this has been!  It was full of ups and downs and so many blessings!  We are pleased to announce we welcomed our precious Brandon Sergey into our family forever on May 5, 2011!  What a wonderful child God has blessed us with.  He is a handsome, blond-haired 11-year-old boy who is happy, loving, kind and very athletic.  Those of you who do not follow my Facebook are probably surprised that we do not have 2 boys, Maxim and Roman, who we announced we would be adopting last Christmas.  The condensed version of the story is we met the boys at the end of March and both boys did not want to be adopted.  They felt they were better off at the orphanage. So, brokenhearted, we traveled back to the capital of Ukraine where God led us to Brandon from the numerous other available boys in Ukraine.  Though it was heartbreaking to experience a failed adoption, looking back we can clearly see God’s hand in the whole situation. 

Tim is still working as a Senior Network Engineer at L-3 Communications.  He very much enjoys what he does.  He travels several times a year all over the world and within the States and enjoys that.  He very much enjoys having another man in the house to play sports with and video games.  It is so much fun to see the 2 of them wrestling and teasing back and forth about who is stronger or manlier.

I stay busy working at the church and academy as the Business Manager.  I oversee the finances of the church and academy and more recently I’ve begun to oversee the church’s Cafè & Bookstore.  I enjoy this job a lot.  It has stretched me, but I very much enjoy learning and growing while serving in the capacities that I’m needed in the ministry.  I am beginning my 3rd year of instructing Personal Finance online at the University of Phoenix which I absolutely love and feel privileged to have such an opportunity.

Brandon is 11 this year.  He came home from Ukraine on May 14th and has grown 2 ½ inches already. His English is coming along quite well. I would say he can speak as well as a 5-year-old American child in only 7 months!  He played soccer this fall and did an excellent job.  In fact, he scored all of the goals for his team for the year except 3 goals.  This winter he’s involved with basketball clinics and loves every minute of this new sport.  Since he’s been home he’s learned to ride a bike, hit a baseball, throw a football, swim, rollerblade, play basketball and play Frisbee golf.  He thoroughly loves being part of a family and is adjusting very well.

Katie is 10 and began her 5th year of piano after taking an 8 month hiatus from it.  The break was the best thing for her because she came back to it enthusiastic and loves to practice and attend her lessons.  She made the A Honor roll her first semester of 5th grade.  She’s joined the Art Club at school and is doing very well. Katie and Brandon are very close to one another and both enjoy building forts, designing new “inventions” and drawing together.   Katie was baptized this past March.  She is really growing to love the Lord more every day and we can see evidence of this growth in her life. 

 Kylie is 8 and in 3rd grade.  She is really coming out of her shell.  She’s made several new friends, especially a new girl she plays with daily in our neighborhood.  She’s our gifted little diver and a very strong swimmer.  Last month she began her orthodontist journey.  She has a whole mouth full of metal gear on now in preparation for the braces she will receive in a few years.  She is a sport through it all as I’m sure it is very uncomfortable for her.  She fills her time with playing with Haley and her special neighborhood friend. 

Haley is 6 and in 1st grade.  She made the A Honor roll her first semester.  She continues to be our little social butterfly.  She’s generally a friend to everyone, but her best friend is Kylie. She’s our naturally poised and ladylike little daughter.  This Christmas she is missing her 1st little bottom tooth and is very proud to finally have her gap in her mouth like all the other 1st graders.  This little gap certainly doesn’t get in the way of her whistling or her singing at all! 

We trust all of you are doing well.   We have heard from some of you and are anxious to hear from all of you this Christmas.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year as well.

 Love, Tim, Carinda, Brandon, Katie, Kylie and Haley

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Elementary Christmas Program

This year we almost missed out on a blessing.  Earlier in the year we pulled Brandon from his music elective so he could be tutored in the core subjects he’s struggling in.  About a month ago Brandon would come home each week and something was clearly bothering him.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, “Why can I not go to music? I want to go sing.”  Well, who said only girls change their mind anyway???????  Earlier this year he said he did not like music or singing and would rather be tutored. 

Lookin' sharp, my son!
Anyway, I told him I would talk with his teacher.  It turns out he joined music class in just enough time to participate in the Elementary Christmas Program and it was absolutely beautiful.  I was beaming with pride and gratitude for those 4 beautiful children!  They all sang their hearts out songs about the true meaning of Christmas.  

For unto us is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR which is CHRIST our LORD!

 It was surreal seeing Brandon sing.  My heart fluttered as he was looking down at us and was not ashamed or embarrassed to smile at his Pops and Mama.   I kept thinking that his Babushka would have eyes full of tears if she could see him shining now!  I am definitely sending her these pictures real soon.  When I asked him if he thought we should send a gift to her he said “Yes, we (should )send her a picture book.”  He evidently had already thought about this before I even asked him about sending a gift.  He wants to send her an album to put in all the pictures we have been sending her these last 7 months. I think that was a thoughtful idea.  We will go out tomorrow to buy her this gift to mail!

They don't come much cuter than these! 

Getting the line up photo before the program

The Elementary Choir

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Nutcracker

Our normal family tradition is to set up the Christmas tree in the evening, listen to Christmas music, sip hot cocoa, eat popcorn and bake (burn) Christmas cookies.   This year was an extra special time of decorating our tree because it is Brandon’s first Christmas. 

He was so interested in being right in the middle of everything.   He enthusiastically hauled all the boxes downstairs from the attic with Daddy.  He helped assemble the tree.  I do not think that Brandon has ever decorated a tree or even seen an artificial Christmas tree.  He took the time to examine every last ornament that was placed on the tree.  His favorite ornament of the night was a nutcracker that Tim has had since he was a boy.  The wooden nutcracker’s back was broken and it really bothered Brandon.  He wanted it fixed and he wanted the nutcracker’s arms and legs to move like they are supposed to.  He wanted to put the back on it so it could hang on the tree with the other worthy ornaments.  He dug through the box of many other old ornaments that were broken as well.  He eventually found the missing, broken piece to the nutcracker and he and I glued it back together.  When all of its limbs could properly move again, the look of satisfaction on his face was priceless!  The laughter that came from his lips was priceless!!

These little things are the things that you and I take for granted, I’m afraid.  I have not once looked in detail at the lights on our tree, or taken the time to look at all of Tim’s ornaments he’s had since he was a baby.  I honestly, in 14 years of pulling out many of these ornaments, never even noticed the nutcracker.  Since I didn’t even know it existed, that broken ornament has definitely never actually made it on to the tree.  Every year we kind of just throw everything together, enjoy our family time, (burn some cookies), eat some treats, snap some photos and call it a day.

I mentioned in previous posts that I really have learned so much from Brandon about being content, about enjoying the moments together as a family, about being joyful with everything (even hauling boxes and cleaning up Christmas junk), but this Christmas I’ve learned more about seeing everything through a new set of eyes.  To him, that broken, wooden piece of junk was beautiful.  It was worthy of finding and caring for and hanging on the tree.   If you could see the way he looked at it and held it, the nutcracker was SO precious to him.

This nutcracker makes me think of my boy.  Last Christmas he was just some broken, dirty child sitting with all the other broken, dirty children in an orphanage that no one ever really noticed.  He’s a child that was broken, but PRAISE THE LORD we found him and are caring for him and we’re working on putting back all the broken pieces of his life.  He’s thriving and growing and he’s together with us AT LAST hanging ornaments on our tree THIS YEAR.  And he’s SO precious to us.  Do you think God has a look of satisfaction on His face?  Does laughter come from His lips when He sees Brandon complete?
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “And God has made everything beautiful in His time.”

Oh, how I wish ALL of the precious, broken, dirty  orphaned children would find a home.  They are so worthy of a family. What joy they would bring to a family!  I know because I met 20 or more and played with them for 2 weeks. Please pray for the little orphaned children.  Pray for more willing families to open up their homes.  If more people could just see these children and hold them, I know they would be SO precious to them as well!
Brandon discovering the nutcracker

Carrying the boxes down from the attic

Papa's wingman, helping set up the tree

Brandon and "Bee" showing off some ornaments

Putting his first ornament up on his first Christmas

I love this boy's thick head of blond hair that was shaved off for years in the orphanage!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Season

It’s easy this time of year to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas.   Actually, it’s easy to get wrapped up in life in general outside every day of the year.  It’s easy to set goals for ourselves and for our children.  We set goals financially, and academically and behaviorally.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting your life to look a certain way and nothing at all wrong with having ambition.  But sometimes I think our hoping and planning and dreaming gets in the way of what our focus should be.  We are guilty of being upside-down in our priorities.  Our focus should be on Christ first and on loving others second (Matthew 22:37-40).  My challenge this year is to think outside of ourselves and our own families and think of others.  All throughout the Gospels (ie. Matthew 9:36, Matthew 20:34 and Mark 1:41), we read that Jesus Christ was “moved to compassion.”  Christ was moved to compassion when he saw lost people.  He was moved to compassion when he saw sick people.   So I’d like to ask, what moves you personally to compassion?

I think of people around the world.  I think of the millions of people in the Third World countries who are hungry, poor or sick.  I think of the people who live every day of their lives in fear because of war.  I think of battered women and children in America and all over the world.  I think of the lonely—those who lost a loved one to death,  those who lost a loved one to divorce or those who desire to be married and have not found a spouse yet.  Ithink of the military families where one or more parents are far away from the family at Christmas.  I think of the orphans who have no family and no home to call their own.  These children go to bed night after night wondering, “Does anyone care? Does anyone love me?” I think of those who are hurting—often times these people hurt for years and do not ever tell a soul they are hurting.     I think of the lost people—those who know there is more to this life, but can’t find their way to Christ.  I pray this year they will find their peace and comfort in Him because outside of Christ there is no hope.  I pray that the few “bad apples” in Christianity who have hurt them, disappointed them or betrayed them have not caused their hearts to become so bitter that they can never see Truth. 

Some of us need to open our eyes and wake up.  We need to allow our hearts to get stirred and move and shed some tears on behalf of others.  The Bible says that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh,  a time to embrace one another and a time to not embrace (Ecclesiastes 3).  There is also a time to pray for others (Romans 14:5, Galatians 6:2 and James 5:16).  Let’s look outside our privileged lives more and think of others more and pray for others more.  We need to turn our backs on the needy LESS and give to others MORE.  We need Christ’s compassion inside of us—especially during the Christmas Season.  God bless. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recap on the November Thankful Challenge

November Facebook Thankful Challenge:

Day 1: I'm thankful that God sent His Son!

Day 2: I am thankful for my godly husband. We were so young when we got married and we've had so much fun together "growing up." He's a great husband, father and son. I'm so blessed to have my handsome man!  I love you dearly, Tim.

Day 3: I'm thankful I was born in America. Traveling to other countries like Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Ukraine has really opened my eyes to how the rest of the world lives. It has given me a whole new outlook on being wise stewards of what God has blessed us with.  It has made me grateful for the modern conveniences we enjoy.

Day 4: I'm thankful for my son Brandon. I'm thankful for the awesome calling from God to raise him. Brandon has been through a lot more in his 11 yrs than most adults and yet he is always smiling and happy. He's helpful, handsome, sweet, affectionate, funny, smart, content and loyal. I love you, Brandon!!

Day 5: I am thankful for my Katie Bug. She's a beautiful, smart, funny, enthusiastic, determined and talented girl. She's not afraid to do right when everyone else around her is doing wrong. She always tells the truth. She's very much my helper. She has wonderful leadership qualities for only being 10. I love you, Katie!!!

Day 6: Today I am thankful for my Kylie girl. She is beautiful, loving and kind. Her greatest quality is her gift of compassion. She has the wonderful ability to see a need and meet the need without even being told there is a need. The world needs more selfless Kylie's!! I love you sweet, girl!!

Day 7: Today I am thankful for my little Haley "Bee.". She is my beautiful, smart, giggly, fun, affectionate, go-with-the-flow, lady-like girlie girl!! She is also compassionate and is by your side if you are hurting. As the youngest, she holds her own and watch out because she's full of tease! I love you, Haley Alissa!!

Day 8: I am thankful for the opportunity to be a University instructor. I get to meet a lot of neat people and learn along with my students.

Day 9: Today I am thankful for good health. I'm thankful all 6 of us are healthy and strong. I never thought much about it before Facebook. Now I read about daily struggles of children and friends and I do not take for granted good health. Thank you, Lord for my healthy family.

Day 10: Today I am thankful for the Academy our 4 children attend. We have the top educators in the country! I'm so thankful they reinforce what we are teaching our children from our home regarding God, the Bible and absolute right and wrong.

Day 11: Today I am thankful for all of our Veterans. All 3 of my brothers (in laws) and 1 sister (in law) are currently serving in the Air Force. Tim also served in the Air Force 8 years. I'm thankful for the sacrifices they and their families make to serve our nation.

Day 12: I'm thankful for my church. We love the smaller atmosphere and warmth of the 8:30 service. We love the unwavering preaching and teaching of God's Word. We love our friends there. We love to serve where we can. And we love the music.

Day 13: I am thankful Tim has his "dream job." I love that he loves what he does and at the same time he loves providing for his family. He takes great care of us all!!

Day 14: Today I am thankful for my parents. I'm sure during my teen years I caused them to pray often. ;) However, they never once wavered from their standards and therefore I lived up to them. Love you guys!

Day 15: Today I am thankful Brandon has been home for 6 months. I'm thankful for all he has learned and how well he has adjusted to his new life. I'm thankful for everyone who has worked with him since he's been home.

Day 16: Today I am thankful for Tim’s side of the family.  I get an extra set of godly parents who I’ve learned so much from over the last 14 years. I get to have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, 3 nieces and a nephew.  I get aunts and uncles and cousins. I get 1 Fadie and 2 Grammie’s. And many friends of the Kerr side that are very much like family.  You know who you are! I love all of you! 

Day 17: Today I am thankful for my sister, her husband and my nephew and niece.  I love you guys!

Day 18: Today I am thankful for payday!  In an economy where jobs are unstable, it is a blessing to faithfully get paid and to be able to pay all our bills on time.

Day 19: Today I am thankful beyond words for my friend Anya.  She spent almost 3 hours today translating Brandon’s Russian/Ukrainian documents for me.  It is neat because I was able to get a lot of answers to some of the various questions I’ve had.  She was able to communiate with Brandon when he first arrived in the US and she's also translated several letters from Brandon's "babushka."

Day 20: Today I am thankful for the pastors at Berean.  Pastor Sean, Dr. Wilson, Pastor Dwayne, Pastor Dave, Pastor Bill, Pastor Jonathan and Pastor Cliff do so much behind the scenes with prayer and service to their “flock” which most people are not even aware of.  They love what they do and they give 100% every day.  Thanks guys!

Day 21: Today I am thankful for hugs.  It’s early in the morning and already I have been hugged 9 times: 6 times by Brandon and 1 time each by Katie, Kylie and Haley.  I’m sure I will get many more hugs as the day goes by.  I am so blessed!

Day 22: Today I am thankful Tim is finally home.  He travels often and I am thankful for God’s provision over the many places he’s been.  I’m thankful he enjoys traveling.  I’m thankful for my children who keep me company and (for the most part) are such great helpers while he’s gone.

Day 23: Today I am thankful for the next 5 days off work. I am very much looking forward with the time spent with family and friends.

Day 24: Today I am thankful for Thanksgiving food and am thankful Tim’s parents could be here for Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for the abundance of food we have in America.  Mostly I am thankful my Mother-in-law cooked most of it!  I'm thankful for our friends that came to spend it with us as well.

Day 25: I am thankful to NOT be out shopping today! Online shopping with free shipping works for me!

Day 26: I'm thankful I get to go on a hot date with my hubby! :-) (Thanks for watching the crazies, Mom and Dad K).

Day 27: Today I am thankful for my home.  It meets all of our needs perfectly and we have so many wonderful memories here already.  We’ve housed family and friends and precious missionaries in the 5 years that we’ve lived here.  It’s kept us safe during tornadoes and warm/dry during storms.  I feel so blessed with our precious grey house.

Day 28:  Today I am thankful for my job(s) at Berean.  I hardly can call what I do “work” because I love it so much.  I enjoy working in a Christian atmosphere and I love that I work right across the street from my 4 children.  I have been able to be there countless times with forgotten lunches, special classroom parties or when they get sick or injured during the day.  My job helps provide the means to send all of our children to one of the best Bible believing schools in America!

Day 29: Today I am thankful for Facebook. Even though it drives me crazy with the format changing all the time and some of the drama that goes on, I am thankful I get to keep in touch with friends all over the world through it. It brightens my day to see recent photos of my friends and their children!

Day 30: On this final day of November I am thankful for the November Thankful Challenge. It helped me see all the many things God has blessed me with and remember to give thanks for them all month.