Saturday, March 31, 2012


Our Adoption Frequently Asked Questions

Many of you have already begun to ask questions.  Some of you are too afraid to ask us questions, but are still very curious.  So rather than me answer dozens of questions to dozens of different people, I figured I’d just answer them all here.  Some of these questions I’ve answered rather pointed.  If you have read any of our blog up until this point, you know how passionate I am about orphans and about adoption.  The intent is not to offend anyone, but rather to answer questions I’ve been asked honestly and clearly.

Why are you drawn to adopt internationally?

The answer is complicated, but what it boils down to is I believe there is a more desperate need for International adoption for four main reasons.  First, I’ve read some biographies of American fatherless children as we did prayerfully consider adopting locally.  Some of them read like this, “He dreams of one day having his own iPad” or “He wants to be adopted but he feels he must continue living in Florida because of the sports he participates in.”  Do you know what Brandon’s lifelong dream was? To have a family.  To have enough food each day to keep up with his growing body.  While American fatherless children still live in less than optimal situations, and I’m sure many do desperately want a family, they still are not institutionalized with hundreds of other children.  They do not go to bed hungry at night. Our government even has programs in tact so the fatherless can go to college upon graduation and live a full and successful life.  Foreign orphans “age out” usually at age 16 and are put out on the street and wind up to be prostitutes or criminals.  Second, less people are moved to adopt internationally.  Not everyone can travel overseas, can complete the rigorous paperwork, want to deal with a language and cultural barrier or care to comply with foreign adoption laws.  Third, in America the fatherless have a better chance of hearing the Gospel since there are Bible-believing churches almost on every corner.  In foreign countries, the chances of them hearing the truth about Christ are much slimmer.  Fourth, people are less likely to adopt internationally because it costs so much.  All 5 of us are drawn specifically to Ukraine for our next adoption.   And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me (Isaiah 6:8).”

All the textbooks say you should wait at least a year after the death of a loved one before making a major decision. Why are you not waiting?

I do not care about any textbooks.  We are not bound by what is “normal” and what is “recommended” by top PhD’s in the country.  Our situation is anything but the normal “text book” situation. The Bible is our only book of authority.  God has been clear in His word that we must obey and we must obey immediately.

Are you just trying to replace Brandon? 

No, we are not trying to replace Brandon for the single reason that OUR SON CANNOT BE REPLACED.  He was too unique and too special.  He was a wonderful son and had all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a son.  I had no idea that God would give us exactly what we ever wanted in our sweet, Brandon and I didn’t even know it was what I wanted in a son before I actually met him.  Having said that, I feel it is an unfair expectation on our newest son to be a suitable replacement for Brandon.  Instead, we believe our love will grow.  When we first learned we were expecting our second daughter, Kylie, we could not imagine loving another little girl as much as we loved our firstborn, Katie.  Yet, somehow God grew our love and we love the girls equally.  Then little Haley came along and we couldn’t imagine loving our third daughter as much as our first two.  And somehow our love grew.  Then God called us to adopt Brandon.  We weren’t even sure how we could love a child that was not our own flesh and blood as much as we loved our own “home grown” girls.  Yet, God gave us an AMAZING love for Brandon that far exceeded our expectations and it was the SAME love we have for our daughters.  So regardless of our newest son’s temperament, gifts & talents, we believe our love will grow and we hope this love will point this child to Christ.

Why don’t you wait to adopt until you are done grieving?

Well, I am not even sure we will all EVER be done grieving our son, Brandon.  Yes, we may even grieve over him until the day we reach Heaven.  We have suffered such a great and unexpected and premature loss with Brandon that it is not something that we will just “get over.”  So why wait a year or two years before adopting again?  Why make a fatherless child sit in an orphanage for long periods of time while we attempt to “get over” our son?  We are going to grieve.  We will have our moments of sadness.  But we have so many more moments of joy.  Time, on this side of Heaven, is running out. Jesus Christ is coming again!!!  Fatherless children are growing up and they need nurturing and love more than we need to sit in our own self-pity and wallow about ourselves and our trials in life.

When did it occur to you that you need to adopt again? 

I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I felt God calling us to adopt again on February 4th, 2012 during Brandon’s celebration of life service.  The Academy’s high school choir was singing so beautifully and I stared at my son’s picture.  God impressed upon my heart that our family and our friends and our church and our school are TOO GREAT to keep to ourselves.  We must share all that we have again with another child.  I fought it back for some time.  It would be so much easier to just move on with life and not worry about adoption any more.  We did our part.  But then I think about the life change we saw in Brandon in such a short period of time.  He went from being 53 inches tall, 70 pounds to 56 inches tall and 85 pounds in only 8 months.  We had no idea our son’s hair was blond because when we met him his hair was dark, greasy and short!  He had never had a hot shower or used a toilet correctly.  He learned proper hygiene and work ethic in only 8 months.  He went from not being able to read or write in English to understanding, writing and speaking English in only 8 months.  He made hundreds of friends and impacted thousands of lives in only 8 months.  He had no idea that there is a God who is alive, seeking lost souls.  He had no idea that you live eternally either in Heaven or in Hell.  He had no idea that Christ died on a cross for the sins of mankind, but he learned ALL of that in only 8 months.  Adoption doesn’t change the whole world, but it changes lives—ETERNALLY. 

How will you pay for another adoption so soon?

This is the question that kept Tim and I from making a decision to move forward with a new adoption the longest.  Money is always a problem.  We had a well-meaning deacon in our church tell us with the 1st adoption that he believed that families needed to have their finances for the adoption before they even think about adoption.  I’m sorry, but I believe that is completely unscriptural.  When Jesus Christ told his disciples, “Follow me” they did not say, “Wait a minute, Lord.  I have to raise the funds first.  Hang on.  Let me contact my bank to get a loan.”  They dropped EVERYTHING and followed Christ IMMEDIATELY.  In fact, God even commanded his disciples to “take nothing.”  What was God’s plan for their material needs?  Other believers.  They were to stay in the homes and eat from the tables of other believers.  Adoption is our ministry.  It is our lifelong calling.  It is our mission field.  We would love for you, if God has laid it on your heart, to come along side of us and help us financially to adopt.  Those believers that gave towards Brandon’s adoption have eternal rewards waiting for them in heaven and those that help in this adoption will be rewarded eternally as well. 

What is the cost of your adoption? 

A really good estimate this time around is about $28,000 and that includes everything.  Last time we did not plan adequately for airfare and in-country expenses so that it threw us off with our figures.  This time we know exactly what it costs for these things.  We are expecting to receive our $13,360 adoption tax credit from Brandon’s adoption by the end of the year, so that helps out a lot.

Do you have a specific boy picked out to adopt yet? 

We learned from our first adoption to be more open-minded.  We do have our eyes on one little boy and if God sees fit to allow us to adopt him, we will.  If God points us to an entirely different boy, or even boys, we’ll obey accordingly.  Our paperwork says we are willing to adopt “up to 3 children, male or female from Ukraine.”  So anything within those parameters is fine with us.

What do you think Brandon would say about adopting another boy?

Brandon was one of the most generous people I have ever met.  He would give the shirt off his back if you needed it.  He would often give up his bed so his sisters could sleep in it while he’d willingly sleep on the floor.  I casually asked Brandon back in November if he thought Mama and Papa should adopt more boys.  He laughed and said, “Maybe in one year you can.  Today, I am the only boy.” A week before he died he was particularly concerned for his two best friends back in Ukraine.  Out of the blue he asked if I thought any of our friends in America “would buy” Maxim and Yuri.  I told him I would try my best to find a family for Maxim and Yuri.  I then explained that we didn’t “buy” him.  We paid for his plane ticket and we paid for some papers he needed to come to America, but children are not bought.  He definitely had a heart and a love for other people and I believe he would be thrilled to know we are adopting again.  He would gladly share his bed, his bedroom and all his toys.

Anyway, this is all I had for now.  Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions and I’m happy to answer them for you.  Those of us who were born in America are so blessed.  We sit here in our gigantic 4 bedroom/2 bathroom houses with a bedroom set aside solely for a computer and a bedroom set aside solely for guests that may or may not even have time to come visit for one week out of a year.  We don’t even blink about spending $18 a plate at a restaurant or $8 on frozen yogurt or $5 on coffee.  We drive new vehicles and wear name-brand clothing.  That all may be part of the American dream and we may very well be entitled to it all, but it’s not for me.  I’ll keep my 10-year-old family car with 120,000 miles on it, I’ll wear the same clothing I’ve worn for the last 10 years, I’ll take our empty bedroom upstairs and any money that I have and use it all to bring another little boy home.  I’m willing to do this so he can grow and thrive in our home.  More importantly, I’ll sacrifice it all so he can learn about God’s love and grace.  “Take this world and give me Jesus. This (world) is not where I belong” (Building 429).  Thanks for listening. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Brandon

Dear Brandon,

Happy Birthday my sweet son!  Oh, how I wish you were here today.  I would have given you so many hugs before school this morning.   I realized today that I never got to sing “Happy Birthday” to you.   Actually, you would probably be glad of that since I can’t sing—at all.  I still would have sang to you, and just let your sisters and Dad drowned out my voice.

Today I wore my blue flower tank top you picked out for me that time we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods.  Remember?  You said I would look beautiful in it and insisted that I buy it.  I love it.  You have good taste.  I was thankful today was sunny and 85 degrees to wear the tank top.  I wore my necklace with your picture on it.  I chewed your favorite kind of pink bubble gum.  I wish the flavor lasted longer on that.

Grandma and Grandpa came over for a little while.  We had a good cry.  After they left, I went upstairs and got your favorite blue blanket that you snuggled up in the night before you went to Heaven.  I wrapped it around me and sat down where you died.  I cried and I prayed.  I asked God to tell you Hello, Happy Birthday and I love you from all of us.  I’m not sure that is even allowed, but I figured I’d ask Him to anyway. 

Anya came over and brought some beautiful flowers.  They are the colors in the Ukrainian flag.  It was very thoughtful.

I know I said I wasn’t going by your grave side today because I feel closer to you upstairs in our home, where you were last alive, but the car kind of turned in to the cemetery anyway.  Your stone won’t be ready until June, but all the trees there are in full bloom.  You would have liked the smell of the flowers. Lots of people went to see you today.  I’m sure you got their notes they wrote on the balloons.  You are so loved by everyone that knew you and many that knew about you.

I went shopping for birthday gifts for your sisters to try to cheer them up.  You had wanted us to get you a skateboard or a basketball hoop.  We were planning to get you a hoop to play with your friends and all of us.  I’m bummed I never got to play with you.  I never got to see your jump shot either. 

For dinner we had what you requested for your birthday back in January—pigs-in-a-blanket, pizza and salad.  Katie, Kylie and Haley also helped make the cake you wanted as well—A Monster truck chocolate cake, with chocolate icing.  They were proud of your cake.  I think they did a good job.  Tonight we watched Chipwrecked.  I still remember your laugh that time we watched it with you in the theater.

Overall, it’s been a good day.  There have been lots of tears, yet lots of joy.  It would have been so much better if you were here.  I often told you that God did a really good job when He created you.  You would ask me “Why you say this?”  I would answer, “Because God made you such a beautiful boy.”  You would smile and say, “Thanks, Mama.”  As beautiful as you were in your earthly body, I can’t even imagine how beautiful you must be in Heaven.  I want you to know that of all the little boys in Heaven, I love you most!  I can’t wait to see you again one day, my son.   Next time I see you, I will sing Happy Birthday to you, and I promise it will sound so much better than it would here!  We love you SO much!  Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Little Gifts

It's been 8 weeks now. I wanted to share some little gifts that make me smile. These are some notes that Brandon has written. Most of these were found in his desk upstairs in his room. Some of them came from his papers and books from school that his teacher gave to me.
Written on January 11, 2012 Brandon wrote that he likes his family, mama, papa and sisters.

Written sometime in January Brandon wrote "My name is Brandon and I like my bike."  His bike was his favorite toy he owned....He died doing something he truly LOVED. Personally, I wish he didn't have a bike and he was a couch potato kid....Not really, but at least he'd be alive.

Dear Journal, My name is Brandon. I like school because I like arithmetic. I like soccer because I am play game.  I like play outside.
Dear Journal, I think the Gospel is good.
November My favorite food (is) turkey.  I like thanksgiving because thanksgiving (has) good food (and) good play (outside) with friends.
January 2012 Brandon Kerr I like America because I like trees and I like cars.
December 2011 My name is Brandon.  I (will) write (about) Christmas. True Christmas. I have a car and a family.  I like my family.
Fishing At the Park
At the Beach
Brandon after his soccer game
Brandon at the fair

Summer Fun (Fall 2011). I go to the fair.  I go to the beach. I went to the (park to) fish. My family went to the beach. My family went to the fair.  My dad and I go fishing.  My mama goes to work.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break!

Sorry I haven't written much on here lately.  We have been on a very much needed vacation because the girls had spring break.  We have all had a really good time.  First we went and stayed with good friends we had back when we lived in Melboure/Viera, Florida.  We went to the beach nearby every day, went shopping, went to the zoo, hung out with friends and just relaxed.  Then we set out for Ft. Myers.  We enjoyed our family, the beach, the heated pool, beautiful walks around Sanibel Island, Shell point, the famous "Love Boat" homemade ice cream and of course more relaxing.  Throughout the trip we have often said what we thought Brandon would or would not have enjoyed about the trip.  We have missed him very much.  He would have had an absolute blast the whole week.  Anyway, I've added several pictures below since I haven't posted pictures in a while.
Cocoa Beach, Florida (where we used to live once upon a time.)

Near Ft. Myers, Florida

Hanging out at the beach with Uncle Dave and Aunt Debby on Sanibel Island

Shell Point

Dinner with Uncle Dave, Aunt Debby, Aunt Bonnie & Jerry, Gram and our family

Spring Break---both happy and sad....we're missing our precious boy

Monday, March 5, 2012

God Nods

On Saturday I read the book “Have Heart” by Steve and Sarah Berger.  This couple’s young son went to Heaven 3 days after he was in a car accident.  It is the best book that I have ever read regarding Heaven.  Most books people read after a loved one leaves this life are all about grief and how to handle grief.  This book was so positive.  It gave me a totally different perspective of Brandon and it really took the focus off me and put the focus back to God and Heaven.

In this book they talked about what are called “God Nods.”  They define God Nods this way:

"God continually showing himself (after the loved one passes); Experiences reminding us we are eternally connected with our loved one; God’s spontaneous Sovereignty that He allows gifts from Heaven to touch us on earth to bring comfort and peace; an affirmation and direction; a reminder that you are on God’s radar and haven’t been forgotten; God Nods are God directing you to pay attention and look deeper; It’s God saying, 'Check this out.' God Nods are special things only God can do and they are blessings of God in the midst of your pain and suffering."

Until I read this book, I had no idea how to describe the comfort that I felt which I believe can only come from God.  Human beings can do their best to fumble through words and actions to try to make us feel better.  Even those individuals who have been through a similar experience cannot begin to touch the peace that comes from God.  I want to share 5 specific times that I feel I received these gifts that Steve and Sarah Berger call “God Nods.”

1.        The night after Brandon passed I had cried out to God for comfort.  I’ve mentioned this in a previous post.   As I was praying, the first verse that came to mind from my childhood was “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him” Revelation 3:20.  Later on in the night I got to see a dream of Someone knocking on an old door.  Brandon opened the door and his face lit up and he said, “Hey!!!!! I know you!  Mama and Papa tell me about You. Mr. Kellett tell me about You.  Pastor Sean. He tell me about You.  I see it in book at school.”  He was SO excited at Whoever was at that door.  He was looking back and me, pointing and saying “Look!” When I woke up from the dream I felt so much better.   He was happy.  He was still Brandon.  He was alive.  Though he is not on this earth with me, I know Brandon is more alive and more joyful than he ever was here on earth.  That is SO exciting to me. 

2.       The week after Brandon’s accident, I remembered we had a rough night the Thursday before 1/30/12.  It was an intense night of schoolwork.  Tim and I were both frustrated and had exhausted all our patience.  We finally just sent him to bed.  Usually we allowed Brandon to wind down by listening to music or playing his Nintendo.  This particular night he had to go straight to bed.  It was the only night in 8 months that he did not come running to me and give me 2 or 3 or more hugs before bedtime.  I was crushed.  But I was his Mom and I loved my son so much that I knew I had to discipline him that night.  I went upstairs and he hid under his covers.  Again, it crushed me.  My beloved son was so mad at me that he hid under his covers from me!  So, I did what I only knew to do: I tickled the absolute daylights out of the boy.  I told him I wouldn’t stop until he hugged me.  We both laughed SO hard and finally he gave me an extra big hug.  I told him I loved him so much and that tomorrow would be a better day.  I told him he was a good boy and I was proud of him for working so hard at school. He told me he loved me too.  The following day was my day off from work.  I decided that I was going to write him a “love note” in words that he understood and could read in English himself.  I wrote something to the affect that I was glad that God gave him to me.  I was happy I was his Mom.  And that I loved him.  I left it on top of his laptop so he would notice it easily.  When he found the note after school he came running down the stairs, “Mama!!! Why you write this note?  Why you give it to me on my computer?”  And I told him that I liked to surprise my children with special notes sometimes.  He said, “Thank you for my note.  I like my note.  I love you too” and he gave me more hugs.  Well, I couldn’t find that note after he died.  .  I looked through his desk, his books, his dresser, his pockets, everywhere!  I had even thoroughly checked his trash can because I wanted anything with his handwriting on it. Where in the world did he put this note?  I prayed again that God would allow me to find the note.  It was nowhere to be found! Finally, I prayed again and I decided to feel through the pockets of the pants that were hanging up in his closet.  Sure enough, the note was in the pocket of a pair of his (DIRTY--LOL) jeans.  He always kept his favorite treasures in his pockets.  I have always had a great time seeing what he’s put in his pockets as I did his laundry each week.   His treasure was usually money or his ipod, a pocket knife or some prize he won at school.  One time I found his soccer medal in his pocket.  This time, tucked away in his pockets was his letter from his mom and it was his treasure. 

3.       I was feeling particularly down on one of the Mondays following the accident.  As usual I was praying and this particular day I felt an incredible urge to clean to stay busy.  While cleaning, I found an old camera that the kids were allowed to play with.  I decided to view what was on the camera.  The photos were clearly taken on a time where Brandon was loose with the camera.  There was a lot of foolishness on there that really made me laugh.  He was obviously torturing Katie who hates to have her picture taken.  I remember that devious laugh whenever he’d tease any of the girls.  There were several pictures he’d taken of me that I had no idea he had taken.  Most of them were me on my laptop working or on my iPhone chatting with friends or checking Facebook.  Then in the midst of the camera was a photo of just Brandon and me in front of our Christmas tree.  I’d forgotten he had asked Kylie to take  that photo of us.  He had a giant smile.  It was so special to me to find these pictures and in the midst of my down-in-the-dumps day was a gift to cheer me up.

4.       My dad was pretty sad that there were no photos of him with Brandon.  It was really bothering him and he felt like he didn’t even exist in Brandon’s life.  It really bothered me as well to think that such an important family member had no photos with Brandon.  The following day I woke out of a dead sleep at 5:55 in the morning with a recollection of a photo of my dad and Brandon.  After some frantic searching I found the photo!!! It was taken for his 2nd grade scrap book.  This photo was taken of Brandon with a big smile and my dad in his work shirt at the school.  That was SO special. 

5.       Finally, I was really struggling for some time regarding whether or not Brandon went to Heaven when he died.  Not everyone who dies automatically goes to Heaven.  Just because someone is a good person does not mean they go to Heaven.  This is not taught in the Bible anywhere.  I knew that Brandon knew the Gospel message, but I wasn’t sure if he had embraced the Truth.  The devil used this doubt and tormented me with it particularly in the evenings when I should have been sleeping.  I was so down for over a month over this burden.  I cried out to God over and over to confirm it somehow to me that Brandon trusted Christ as his Savior and only hope for eternal life.  This past Friday I was given his journal he kept at school.  He wrote two things that really answered my month-long prayer.  In November he wrote in his best English simply, "I think the gospel is good. " After Christmas sometime he wrote the following: Gad (God) say bihold to trust to Jesus becaus when we bihold Jesus we go to heven. And I like jesus. Jesus (is) are (our) first papa.  (Behold means to fix the eyes upon; to see with attention; to observe with care.)

How precious these words Brandon wrote are to my heart!  Even more, how precious it is to me to know that I have a heavenly Father who loves me, who sent His Son to die on a cross for me and for the whole world, so that anyone who repents and trusts in Him can live eternally!  Finally, it is so amazing to me that God gave me these 5 specific gifts as answers to specific prayers on my heart.  He comforts my heart and He gives me peace.  Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill to all men!!!

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15).