Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homeless Guy Update

Today the girlies and I gave "homeless guy" the money Brandon wanted to give him and a letter with a picture of Brandon!  The girls literally rejoiced out loud (first) that he was on the curb today after almost 2 weeks of waiting for him and (second) that they got to hand it to him.  I am praying it is a fruitful experience and that Brandon's story points him to Christ.

Oh, by the way, I almost forgot, "homeless guy" has a name.  It's Jeff. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Living Out Scripture

I’ve been told if I let too many days go by without writing people start to get worried about us.  Thank you for the concern and for following our lives so closely.  That means a lot.

By way of update, the girls are doing well.  It is amazing to me how resilient they seem to be.  They are still sad and miss their big brother, but they are at the same time such happy little girls.  They still have their sense of humor and it does my heart well to hear them laugh and play every day.  They very much enjoy talking about the happy times with Brandon and love looking through pictures of the good times we shared.

Tim seems to be doing well.  He missed Brandon especially this past Saturday when he went to play softball at church.  Brandon thoroughly enjoyed tagging along with Papa to softball and he enjoyed fetching the balls during practice or games.  Tim’s the only man in the house again.  He probably misses the physical punching and kicking banter they shared.

As for me, just when I think I am doing fine, another wave of emotion comes over me, knocking me right off my feet.  A flashback resurfaces, the “what ifs” come back, the denial, the anger, the confusion, the worry of not being able to reach Tim again if I need him.  Every place, every food, every event, every song, every scent reminds me of the fact that sweet Brandon is not here, nor will he ever be here again, and the tears fall and it’s hard to get them to stop once they begin.

This past weekend there was a brief moment where the fog of my own crisis settled long enough for me to look around at other people who are hurting as well.

I saw a wife and mother of 3 who has been fighting cancer for many years.  I can’t name one part of her body that cancer has not invaded.  It seems like one flame of cancer gets put out, just to have another flame pop up somewhere else on her body.  I saw another mother who has just been told her young son has a terminal disease and there is nothing more they can do.  They have exhausted any and all options.  I saw others who have miscarried several times, another mother who had a still-born baby, a 3-year-old girl died in a car accident; 2 people have lost their fathers; one has lost a mother.  Numerous soldiers have deployed leaving behind grieving wives and children.

While all of these difficulties of life can become so overwhelming to me, I still believe we can find comfort and encouragement when we look to the Cross.  I think of that old hymn that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”   Last week in Bible study we read John 8:29.  The part of the verse that stood out to me was this:  And He  (God the Father) that sent me (Jesus) is with me.  The Father has not left me alone.  It struck me that even in the darkest hours of Christ’s life on the Cross, the Father did not leave Him alone.  Those of us who are Christians have the incredible peace in knowing that we are not alone in our darkest hours either.  The Holy Spirit leads, guides and comforts us.  Additionally, the Holy Spirit leads and guides other Christians to serve those people who are hurting or who are in need.

I see evidence of this in the last month very clearly.  Some have been led to give money to help with the burden of our funeral expenses.  Others gifted with hospitality have brought us meals.  Those gifted with compassion have listened as I’ve spilled my heart out and cried.  They’ve given hugs.  Some have sent out notes of encouragement.  I had one dear friend make a c.d. mix with all kinds of encouraging, uplifting godly music.  I've already listened to this c.d. 20 times! Others have given me helpful books, DVDs or other resources that have encouraged my grieving heart.  Many have prayed on our behalf.

 Thank you ever single one of you. All of these things have gone so far in getting us through this past month.   Paul would be so proud to see you guys living out this passage of Scripture:

                I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

(Ephesians 4:1-7 ESV)

 Thanks again for everything!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

He Buy House?

Today as I crossed Raeford and Brighton Roads we passed the young 30-year-old, homeless guy that usually stands there.  Instantly I remembered a conversation I had with my son.

Brandon commented one day, “Why he always stand there? He have brown sign.”  I explained that the sign says he has no house and that he needs money.

Brandon asked, “Why he have no house?  He young man.  He not work?”  “I don’t know, Son” was my reply.

Day after day we’d pass this guy.  The girls would stare, often commenting how embarrassing it must be to stand there in front of all the people.  I’d look forward waiting for the light to turn green.  Brandon always smiled his sweet smile at this man.  This man smiled back at Brandon.

One day Brandon said, “I have a lot of money.  I give it to him, Mama?” 

Me: “No, Son.  You worked hard for that money.  You keep it for your airplane you want to buy.” 

Brandon:  “Why Mama?  He need food.  He buy cheeseburger.” (Burger King is right beside that curb).

Me: “Because we do not know if he will buy food or cigarettes or beer.”

Brandon: “Well maybe I give it to him he buy house.”

Such love and compassion my son had!  He had more than I have ever had.  Brandon always had such a kind and generous heart.  He would willingly give you anything and everything he had if you asked…and sometimes you didn’t even have to ask.  He would just offer it to you. 

Anyway,  I wish I’d let my son give this man his $22.  It’s still in his wallet untouched.  Really makes me think….I may just stop by and give this man this money. 

I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Matthew 25:45

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

The book A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis was put in my hands yesterday and I’ve just finished reading it.  It really was a helpful book.  Lewis wrote the thoughts in A Grief Observed after he lost his beloved wife to cancer.

Honestly, I think perhaps losing a beloved spouse is much worse than losing a child.  Scratch that.  Who can quantify hurt in the lost of a loved one.... A child is a little person who you love and adore.  A child is someone you care for; you put a lot of time into.  They bring much joy and pride.  They pray for you and you for them. They are your little friend and pal with just enough distance so they still respect your authority.  But a spouse goes beyond that.  When I think of my Tim he is literally my better half.  He’s my best friend.  He’s my comfort, my authority, my partner, my lover, my confidant, my warrior, my spiritual leader, my security and my loyal companion.  He knows my deepest secrets.  He knows my every flaw. Yet he still loves me.  There has not been one day since July of 1997 that I have not uttered his name or loved him deeply. Perhaps you cannot even dare to measure losing a loved one.  All losses hurt.  All people feel loss differently.

Lewis describes losing a loved one like an amputation.  When someone loses a leg (or any body part for that matter), they can still live.  They can still breathe.  They can still eat and sleep.  They can still laugh and find joy.  You can put a prosthetic leg in its place.  The wound will heal over, but the leg is still missing.  It always will be.  That’s kind of how it is with Brandon.  He’s always going to be missing.

The biggest reason I love to read is to learn.  I won’t read a book simply to kill time or entertain myself.  I am far too busy.  I feel if I read it must be to learn.  In addition to Lewis’s amputation analogy 3 things he said jumped off the pages at me.  I believe I feel the same way he did regarding my loss of Brandon, but Lewis says them so much better than I could.  So I’d like to share these with you.

1.        “Round and round everything repeats.  Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?  But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often—will it be for always? How often will the vast emptiness astonish me? (p. 56)

2.       He (a man) has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses.  Only torture will bring out the truth.  Only under torture does he discover himself. (p. 38)

3.       God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality.  He knew it already.  It was I who did not.  (p. 52)

Anyway, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book.  I’m grateful for the day off for President’s Day and I love the sunshine.  I’m off to share a picnic in the back yard with my two littlest girlies. 

I have told you these things, so that IN ME you may have PEACE.  In this world you will have trouble.  BUT TAKE HEART!  I  HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. John 16:33

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

9 Months Home

I so very badly wish I was reporting that Brandon was officially home 9 months today.  I wish I had several wonderful stories to share about how well he is doing and a few adorable photos to go along with it.  Sadly though all I have is the cold, hard reality that I will never see my son alive this side of heaven again.  I have a mess of grief and emotions to deal with, but yet still I find peace in the midst of the storm. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, My (God’s) grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

 I am so grateful that this life is but a vapor.  One day I will look back on the tragic difficulties of today and understand why we are walking through this dark time. 

As for now, I am determined to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding.  I’m determined to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our paths. 

I’m thankful for everyone that has come along side of us and given to Brandon’s fund, baked cookies, brought meals, sent flowers, shared photos, revealed how Brandon touched their lives, sent cards and goodies, cried tears on our behalf and most of all we are grateful for all of those who are praying for us.  We love each and every one of you and we will never, ever forget your kindness.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stages of Grief

Many of us have had a loss of some kind in our lives.  For some it is a divorce or the loss of a deep friendship.  For others it is a break up of a boyfriend or a girlfriend.  Perhaps some experience loss of a job or career such as someone who separates from a 20-year career in the military.  Finally, perhaps the hardest loss is death.  The very first death that I can recall was my childhood pet, Sindy the black and white cat. I grieved very deeply over this cat.  It’s hard for others to imagine, but in my eyes she was my very best friend for half my life at the time.  In high school I lost my grandfather and I hurt deeply with that as well.  With each loss, no matter how small the loss may seem to others, I believe there is an element of grief. 

Long before I decided to get my degree in Accounting, I tossed around majoring in some kind of child psychology. I even took a few classes that have actually been a (providential) help to my current situation.  In these classes I learned with any loss, there are 5 basic stages.  These stages of grief are as follows: Shock or denial, anger, depression, sadness and acceptance.   Everyone goes through these stages in one way or another, and I’ve learned that it’s actually healthy to do so.  It is how God allows us to heal and move forward in life.

Shock or Denial. I’ve learned this is a natural unconscious defense mechanism of our mind that protects us from an emotional overload that would otherwise overwhelm or cripple us physically. The shock or denial enables our minds to adjust to and absorb our loss slowly.  Many people said they could not believe how “strong” I was or am. I think until this past Saturday, I was actually still in shock or denial.  I also believe that any strength I have managed to muster up is actually from the Lord.  Psalm 121:2 says, “My strength comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth (and Maker of my beautiful son, Brandon).”

Anger. As our minds start to process the loss, we first seek to blame an external source for our loss. “Why didn’t the 911 dispatcher answer faster?”  “Why didn’t Brandon tell me he was hurt so I could help him?” Anger includes feeling a personal attack against our sense of self-worth, needs, or convictions. We may become defensive and look to protect our wounded hearts—which has closed up and hardened to protect itself. We may even use the wording, “This is not fair!!” Admittedly this week I have actually said, “What kind of sick and twisted joke is God playing on us? What kind of God allows a family to fight for a child for 8 months, fall in love with him head over heels for another 8 months and then jerk him from our arms without any notice? That doesn’t even make any sense!!!”

At times I have also blamed God because I know that He could have prevented our loss. Many people, however, believing anger to be a sin, and quickly repress the anger that they feel toward God or toward other people without even realizing that the anger is still alive within them. I’ve learned that this is actually where the danger lies.  If I try to repress anger towards God or other people, I can actually get “stuck” in this phase and I’ve learned this is unsafe because getting stuck in any one of these stages can result in clinical depression.  Ephesians 4: 26 says that anger in and of itself is not sin. Thus, the anger that follows a loss is not a sin; it is a normal human emotional response to a situation that we are trying to adjust to. By God’s grace, we can move through our anger to a place of acceptance and forgiveness, but we should not feel guilty for the temporary feelings of anger that are a normal part of our grief response.

Depression. During this phase, our anger is turned inward. This is often the initial opening of our hearts where we look for our responsibility in the situation. Sometimes this leads to healthy reflection, and other times to unwarranted self-blaming. The grieving person feels guilt—authentic guilt, false guilt, or a combination of the two. We ask ourselves at this stage: “How was I to blame?”  I have actually done this A LOT this week.  “If I had slept upstairs all night with him, instead of just 6 hours maybe I would have known he was more than just sick.” “If I had known where the thermometer was I could have taken his temperature and would have noticed that it was likely below the normal body temperature.” “If I had recognized the smell of his last vomiting incident as blood, I would have rushed him to the hospital and he’d still be alive.”  “If I had insisted on giving him a shower I would have noticed a bruise on his stomach and asked him about it.”….”If……” 

I actually hate the word “depression” because I associate it with clinical depression—the kind you need medication from.  But it is important to understand that the depression component of the grief reaction is not a true clinical depression, even though it carries some of the same features.  Thankfully for most people it is a temporary stage in a normal process that we all must go through before we can reach emotional healing.

Sadness. At this phase, we feel we can honestly and transparently grieve our pain safely. The reality of our loss is much clearer. The defenses have dropped enough for us to understand the impact that this change will have on our lives, and we can experience the grief that comes with the readjustment and void that is left behind. As we experience this sadness, we also seek to fill the new void that is left in our lives. I personally feel that only our Lord and Savior can truly fill my wide, open, void that is left now that Brandon is gone.

 Resolution and Acceptance. At this point, we are willing to re-focus from the pain and accept life without whatever was removed from us. It does not mean we have forgotten our precious son if we accept that he is gone.  We may feel free to go back to reflect upon whatever was lost, but these thoughts no longer consume us. The void is no longer what we wake up thinking about,  go to bed thinking about and everything in between.  Sweet Brandon cannot be replaced—not ever. But we can understand that spot in our heart can remain a special place where we can go to from time to time to visit cherished memories of our wonderful 8 months together. We can reflect back and remember the impact, influence, and legacy that Brandon had on our lives and thank God for the opportunity of knowing him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life Insurance???

The day after our son had passed away Tim and I learned that we did not elect to have life insurance on any of our children.  We had both thought at one time we had $10,000 on each of our children.  Tim worked at one company in Florida for 4 years, moved up here under the same company 5 years ago, and then it was bought out by another company and somewhere in there the kids’ life insurance coverage was dropped.  Neither one of us noticed, and probably never would have noticed because who expects their healthy, young children to die?

So let me get this straight.  Not only did we finance our adoption, we lost our sweet, precious adopted son, but now we faced financing his funeral that cost almost $13,000???!!  Life really looked hopeless and meaningless to me.  As an accountant, it was even more tragic and devastating to be in financial ruins because I should have made sure the finances were in line.  Expect the unexpected is very common lingo in the financial world!!  How could this be happening!?

Anyway, I share all this to say that upon learning about this hardship our pastor launched an online (through our church’s website) campaign called “Brandon’s Fund” to help offset the costs of the funeral.  Friends, family members, fellow BBA parents, church family, co-workers and many others went online and donated to this fund.  Yesterday we were presented with a check for the exact amount of our funeral expenses of $12,822.35!!!!!!!  What an absolute and tremendous blessing that was to our family.  Words cannot even begin to express the gratitude that we feel to all of you who contributed to this.  On behalf of our family, thank you so much for your kindness and for the sacrifices you guys made to carry this burden for us.  May God bless you tremendously for your kindness to our family. 


Today was a little sad for me because most of the flowers that were sent to us are withered, so I had to throw them away.  I found comfort in the passage of Isaiah 10:8 where it says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”  My beautiful son is gone.  Our family has gone back to their homes.  The flowers are gone.  But the promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me remains true.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week 1 Struggles

It’s officially been a week since our sweet boy has gone.  It has been the longest, hardest week of my life.  Yet it’s one that I felt closest to God and it’s one that showed me how the love of others can carry me through.  There is a song by Kutless that asks, “If I lost it all, would my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and takes away?” Well, my hands are still lifted. I still love and adore my Savior, but you are the ones holding up my hands with encouragement and prayers.  Everyone has been asking how we are doing so I’ll brief you the best that I can from my perspective, but really I can only speak accurately for myself.

Tim is a tender man.  He has always been the type to watch a sad movie and tears run down his sweet cheeks.  I love that tender side, but it’s really tough to see my knight and shining armor hurting.  He’s going to miss his little sidekick.  He loves all 3 girlies and is SO good with them.  He takes them on Daddy dates and has had many tea parties and makeovers.  But, with Brandon I saw joy in my husband’s eyes like I’ve never seen before.  The way that he and Brandon would tease each other and the commotion that they always made as they tripped, tackled, threw stuff at each other is going to be missed.  I’ll miss Brandon’s struggling squeals and laughs as Tim laughed his devious laugh at such manly torture.  You know, Tim never did let the poor boy win one of those wrestling matches.  But Brandon always picked the fight and came back for more like a little lion cub.  What was neat about Brandon is when (old man) Tim said “Enough.  Let’s settle down” Brandon would.  He obeyed immediately. 

Katie girl was the closest to Brandon in age and maybe even relationship.  They were the oldest so they both slept upstairs.  They shared a bathroom.  Because they are older and more mature they got to stay up later at night.  They’d spend their evenings drawing or building K’nex or Legos together.  They liked making forts out of sheets and blankets.  Occasionally they’d watch a movie.  They both liked Starwars and it was a treat for them to watch it since the little girls were a bit frightened by Starwars.  Brandon felt somehow safer with Katie upstairs.  If she was at a sleepover or at camp he always asked if his little sisters could sleep upstairs with him.  Even though Katie girl was a year and a half younger than Brandon, she was the leader.  He followed her lead in many areas.  Katie faithfully reads her Bible every night without being told.  Brandon witnessed her doing this for 8 months.  One night in the past month, Tim went up to check on the kids since it was so quiet upstairs. There he found Brandon reading his Bible.  Tim asked, “What are you doing?” (He asked because Brandon hid whatever it was he was doing under the covers) and Brandon replied, “Reading my Bible.”  The last Sunday of his life, he took notes in church because he always saw Katie doing so.  How precious.  I worry most about Katie tomorrow when the family is gone and it’s back to normal life around here….that is, normal minus Brandon.

Kylie is taking this the hardest.  She loves the deepest and her reactions are the strongest.  She was the first one to burst into tears when we told them the bad news last week.  She’s probably cried the loudest and the most of the three girls.  But she also responds to her sadness by rage and yelling.  We have to help her balance her emotions so she can express herself, but also use self control.  She needs a lot of hugs.  She needs a lot of reassurance of love.  The first few things she said when he died was, “But Brandon was so strong.  If he was that strong and still died, what’s going to happen to me?”  The other thing she said was, “Are we going to adopt another little boy?” She very much enjoyed being in the same class with Brandon.  He got a lot of attention from everyone, but she was so proud he was her brother. I’ve heard her say a hundred times, “I just want my brother back.” I intend to spend a lot of time cuddling with her and helping her heal.

Haley had stolen Brandon’s heart.  If the girls would wrestle, he had no problem throwing Katie or Kylie down, but Haley would get placed down on the floor like a porcelain doll.  He would give her piggy back rides whenever she asked.  She’d bat her brown eyes at him and say, “pleeeease?”  He would give her rides in the wagon.  He would brush out her hair to make her look like a princess or play Barbies with her.  He would lie down on her lap during a movie while she combed his hair or scratched his back.  He let her hug him whenever she wanted.  He was her hero.  In her eyes he was almost as strong as Daddy.  He could do anything and fix anything and she loved him dearly.   The 4 kids really didn’t fight often, but Haley and Brandon fought the least of any of the kids.

As for me, I’m doing okay. I am struggling mainly with sleep.  I cannot sleep even though I am so very tired.  Every noise in the house makes me get up and check on the kids.  I also am having a hard time eating.  Food has no taste and it all feels like poison when it hits my stomach.  I’ve never been a big eater and don’t have a large appetite even when I’m not grieving.  Often I would begin a burger or sandwich and he’d finish it off rather than allowing me to throw it away.  He said to me this past week, “Mama, you don’t eat enough.  You should finish your sandwich.  You not that big.”  So that is what I replayed in my mind all week as I forced food down my throat so my body has nourishment.  I miss every last thing about him.  I still expect him to burst through the garage door and ask for a drink, or just to come in to say, “Hi Mommy!!! I love you!!” before running back outside to play with his pals.

As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the family leaves tomorrow. We’re on our own starting tomorrow.  We have spent the last 8 months adjusting and enjoying getting to know Brandon.   Now it’s going to take a great deal of time adjusting to not having him with us.  Every last thing reminds us of him, and how we no longer have him to enjoy life with.  So anyway, I hope this gives you a better idea how to pray for us all.  Thank you for the continued prayers and support. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Funeral

I was really dreading today very much.  I was pleasantly surprised that I felt a peace about today and that I didn’t break out into an ugly cry until after the burial and I was in the limo!  I am so thankful for answered prayers!

When we arrived, we walked into the foyer and down the halls of the church and there were hundreds of pictures the students had drawn, letters and banners all showing their love for our son.  I can’t wait to read them one by one.  They had arranged a basketball hoop and a soccer goal and many things he enjoyed.  They had 3 baskets full of goodies for the girls.  That really brightened their day.

Tim and I viewed our son first.  It was hard for Tim to see and he held me tight as he cried.  For me as I looked at my boy an incredible peace came over me.  The last time I saw him it was so difficult and very traumatic.  It was hard to know he died in a place that was cold and definitely was not good enough for my precious boy.  If he had to die, it should have been in my arms or on his bed.  Today he just looked like my handsome boy sleeping.

The girlies all cried when they saw their brother.  It was especially hard for Katie.  She hurts internally and hugs didn’t seem to comfort her in that moment.  She had a very difficult time writing a good bye letter to him.  All 5 of us wrote something special to him and put it in with him.

We were blessed with hundreds of friends and family who came out to the viewing.  Every one of you mean the world to us.  There were many, many tears and a whole lot of hugs.

The funeral was amazing.  August played his guitar that Brandon used to enjoy so much.  The band played.  Jessica sang.  Pastor Jonathan led worship.  The BBA high school lovingly and beautifully sang.  It was fun to hear his teacher Joey Kellett tell stories about school and Brandon’s Coach, Pastor Dave, to share about basketball clinic.  Dad Kerr shared from a grandfather’s heart (the kids all call him BeBe).  Pastor Sean preached a wonderful lesson and shared 3 great emails confirming Brandon’s understanding of salvation.  If you are interested, you can view the funeral on our church’s website (  I was so thankful Pastor Sean took the reins this week.  I had no idea how to prepare the proper funeral service that I felt my son deserved.  The service, the slides, the program all turned out so beautiful. Every little personal touch and everyone who contributed made it so special for our son.  He was SO well loved.

Pastor Dwayne did the graveside service.  It was hard to hold back the tears.  It was cold outside.  My son hated being cold.  He shivered all the time.  I would often get him a blanket or sweatshirt to warm him up because it bothered me to see him cold.   Many came out to the graveside to say goodbye.  I never expected so many to come.  But it meant a lot that you did.

Finally, I was so thankful that my dear friend, Michelle, took photos of the whole thing.  In time I may share the photos with you.  For now, I flip through them here or there.  In 8 months, one 11-year-old (former orphan) boy touched several thousand lives.  I say this because I have had 29,000 hits to this blog in one week. That means 29,000 people care about his life.  It’s hard to imagine, but so very encouraging. Thank you, EVERYONE, so very much for being there for us on a very tough day.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What You Can Do To Help Us

Many of you have been asking what you can do for us.  I have thought about it since Monday and these are the things God laid on my heart. 

1.        Make church a priority because God is your priority.  Don’t go to church because it’s the right thing to do, or to socialize, but because you have a sincere desire to learn more about God.  Obviously I recommend Berean Baptist Church, but find any Bible believing church and attend faithfully.  I cannot imagine enduring such a loss without having a solid church family.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I almost didn’t attend this past Sunday because I had some intestinal issues.  Tim had been called into work at 3:30 in the morning and we were all tired.  But I thank God I attended the day before his death.  People got to see him one last time and he heard the Word of God one last time on earth.

2.       Husbands and wives stay married.  Tim and I have had our rough times in our marriage and what I discovered is when that happened one of us was selfish (usually me).  If you are going to church and your priority is God, your marriage will be sustained even when the storms of life come by.

3.       “Stay the stuff” as Pastor Sean has put it often in the last 5 years I’ve heard him preach.  Do not walk away from your faith.  Lean on Him.  Love Him.  Teach your children about Him.  Honor Him with your life. Live in such a way that everyone knows you have Christ and they want Him in their life as well.

4.       Pray for us.  We have a difficult road ahead of us.  Tim and I need prayer.  The girls need prayer.  Our family needs prayer.  Babuskha and Uncle Tolya need prayer.  I intend to mail a letter expression our love for Brandon, but also my faith in Christ.

Thanks so much for all you’ve done for us already. 

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Telling Brandon's Ukrainian Family

Many of you are aware that Brandon had a living paternal grandmother "Vera" (translated Faith) and paternal Uncle Tolya.  I was really struggling with whether or not to tell them, when to do so and how to break the news. 

I confided in our adoption agent, Larissa, because she has become a true friend.  She has walked us through the entire adoption, answered a gazillion questions, translated letters for us, encouraged us while we were in Ukraine, rejoiced with us when we arrived home in the States, and then followed up every few weeks with his progress.  Larissa thought about it for a little while and then suggested that we tell Uncle first or at least have Uncle be with Babuskha when we told her since she is so old. 

Our dear friend (who speaks Russian) from church, Anya, said she would help us tell however we chose to do so.  I prayed about it some and I really trust Larissa's opinion so we did so.  It was really divine wisdom.

When Anya made the call, Uncle Tolya mentioned that Babuskha has been ill with something with her heart and this would be a very bad time to drop the news.  In the letters she last wrote she mentioned her health was failing her and that she missed her sweet "Seroja" a lot. 

Babuskha had cared for him on and off (as she was allowed) since he was 1 years old.  It's nice to know that she loved on him.  She adored him.  I believe it is because of her love in his early years that he could love so freely.   She and Tolya were so proud of him, just like we are.

Anyway, Uncle wanted to know how, when and why it happened.  He really doesn't know how to tell her, if ever.  I feel so bad for Tolya because on one hand he probably feels she should know, yet on the other hand he doesn't want her to die from a broken heart.  I suppose he took it as well as can be expected.

I can understand how she felt when we left the orphanage with Brandon. He was probably a tremendous joy in her life as he was to us all. I now know why she cried and begged him for several hours not to leave her.

Finally, I was so thankful that Anya carried that burden for us.  I couldn't bare the idea of hearing them cry and grieve as they received the news.  I know that was a hard thing for Anya to do, but she did so with grace and compassion.  I will forever love Tolya and Babuskha because they cared for my boy when he was little.

What Am I Doing About Bitterness?

It’s 4:30 am again, and I’ve been awaken yet again from my precious sleep for no apparent reason at all.  I confess to you that it’s in these early morning wake up times that I struggle most with anger and bitterness. 
As a child I attended Christian school.  It was there that I was “forced” to memorize Scripture.  I was required to memorize the entire book of Philippians, James, Hebrews 11, many passages in the Corinthians, Matthew, Ephesians, Psalms, Proverbs and Genesis.  God blessed me with an incredible mind, but I hated Bible memory.  It wasn’t that I hated God or His precious Word.  It was that I hated the actual act and exercise of memorizing. 
My parents sacrificed and invested a lot of money for me to go to Horseheads Christian Academy in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, Tioga Center Christian School halfway through 2nd-7th grades and then Ross Corners Christian Academy in 8th-12th grades.  Though I could brief you on several perceived "failures" of Christian schools, my Christian education is the single most valuable training I could have had including my Masters Degree in Accounting.  I cannot believe the amount of Scripture God has brought back to my mind.  This morning as bitterness crept up, the verse in Corinthians that says, “Take every thought captive” came to mind.  Often this verse is used for sins like lust.  But it has applied to me more for bitterness and blame. 
When a thought of direct anger at God appears, I challenge the thought.  I take it captive.  Is that thought from God or is the devil trying to defeat me in my own mind? If a though like, “Do You even exist? If You exist, how could you allow this to happen to my son?”  If a thought such as “If I would have just….he’d still be here,” comes to mind, I take it captive.  I know that my God is Holy.  Those thoughts are not Holy.  So I cast them from my mind.  I don’t have room in my temple for both good and bad thoughts.  Rather than leaving my mind empty for another bad thought to enter, I fill my mind with attributes of God.  I fill it with thoughts like God is love.  Jesus wants a relationship with me. I can cry “Abba.” The call of sharing with others about the Cross.  The gifts God gives to Christians.  His law written on my heart.  The fruit of the spirit.  I also fill my mind with edifying music, mainly for me lately it's been Chris Tomlin and Jeremy Camp.
I’m just a rookie at this grief stuff, but so far this strategy is working out for me.  May I give you a word of advice (or two words)? Memorize Scipture.  God will bring it back to mind in the most perfect and applicable way in both good and bad times throughout your life.  Thanks, Mom and Dad for my Christian education.  Thanks to my educators for investing your time to train me in the way I should go.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shirt Smelling Thing

My son always wore cologne.  It drove 10-year-old Katie nuts when he’d shower before her in their shared bathroom because he’d “stink up the whole bathroom” with his cologne.  He couldn’t help it.  He liked when things smelled good.  He loved to smell fresh, clean laundry.  If he’d come inside for a drink and I was cooking dinner, he breath in deeply and say, “Smells good, Mommy.”  He even noticed when I was clean and he’d always say, “Mom, you take shower?” and then he’d follow by a hug and “You smell good.”   He had a way of making me feel like the most exquisite cook and the most adored mother possible.  I'm going to miss that about him.

Those of you who have lost a loved one or even those of you who are far away from a loved one such as a military spouse, you know what I’m talking about when I say I did the whole “smelling the shirt thing”….and it backfired…I had grabbed a folded, smelly white t-shirt out of his top drawer…and frankly, it ruined the moment.  It did make me laugh though because if he’d seen me do that he would have laughed at me with his beautiful, but devious laugh.  And he would have brought it up months after the fact and laughed at me again.  It felt good to laugh.

I’m sure Tim would agree that yesterday was the hardest day so far for the both of us.  We had to pick out his casket, stone and place of rest.  How do you even pick that stuff?  I cringed when I heard the words come out of my mouth, “I like that one over there (referring to the black casket).” Ugh.  No, I do not “like” any of them.  I actually HATE them all.  Yet in the midst of all that, notes from you guys flowed in on my phone.  Prayer was evident.  I had moments of peace even in the midst of a storm.

Funny story-- I had posted a status on Facebook something to the effect of “Please pray I don’t break out into my ugly cry at his funeral Live on this coming Saturday.” And my sweet friend wrote a comment, “You can’t do anything ugly.”  The timing in which the comment came across my iPhone could not have been more perfect. It made me laugh right out loud right in the funeral home.  I showed it to Tim and he smiled as well. 

Ephesians 5:2 says, “Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.”

 It is amazing how all of you are truly walking in love for our family. Your gifts, delicious meals and kind notes are your offerings.  Some of you are sacrificing resources and your time to be there for us.  These are such sweet-smelling fragrances.  The whole smelling the shirt thing didn’t work out so well as far as comfort, but we are feeling Christ’s love through all of your gestures.  Thank you so much.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You don't know me but....

To all of you who are beginning your comments "You don't know me but......", YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME.
Thanks so much for caring and stopping by and for signing your names, putting where you're praying from and how you heard about our son.  I'm humbled by your kindness.  I can't wait to perhaps meet you one day in heaven, where these tough times will be over forever.